Last Sunday, Feb. 20, U.S. Rep. John Mica (R- Fla.), new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, stopped in the Chicago region as part of a series of listening sessions he held across the nation to solicit feedback from local transportation officials and citizens on the next six-year federal transportation bill.
The last federal transportation bill, approved in 2005, expired in September 2009, and has since been extended by Congress six times. Mica said a seventh extension is necessary due to the March 4 deadline; however, he added, he’s very eager to pass a full six-year re-authorization before October, the end of the fiscal year.
The expired authorization funded $286 billion in transportation projects. Without a new revenue source, the current motor fuel tax could fund up to $240 billion in investments. Mica said he is open to indexing the gas tax to inflation, which would generate more revenue to support much-needed transportation investments.
Participants at Sunday’s listening session offered several suggestions for how the federal government could plan and implement projects more efficiently and save money. Many pointed out that federal environmental reviews are burdensome and drive up costs, and noted that by streamlining federal requirements, costs could be reduced to one-third of the original estimate.
I attended the event and submitted the following written testimony on MPC’s behalf.