By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
ARTBA is turning up the heat on Congress this week with television and print ads about the critical need to find a permanent solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The campaigns coincide with the latest wave of radio ads ARTBA is sponsoring in partnership with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
The different media platforms are being deployed to call attention to the May 31 deadline to extend funding for federal highway and transit programs through the HTF. With members of the House and Senate scheduled to leave town May 22 for the Memorial Day recess, the legislative path forward is still unclear.
ARTBA’s television ad is airing eight times daily May 12-14 on CNN and FOX inside the District of Columbia. The one-minute “Getting Beyond Gridlock” (GBG) spot is titled after the funding proposal ARTBA released in March, which seeks to permanently fill the $16 billion annual hole in the HTF.
GBG calls for a 15-cents-per-gallon increase in the federal motor fuels user fee, which would pay for a six-year, $401 billion highway and transit bill that grows core transportation investments with inflation. It would finally make possible major, targeted investments in the National Freight Network and public transit systems to eliminate traffic bottlenecks that are hurting the U.S. economy and competitiveness. GBG would be offset with a tax rebate to low and middle-income Americans for six years.
“Our intent with the television ad is to make sure every member of Congress knows what a 15 cent gas tax solution would achieve before they make a decision on the May 31 deadline,” ARTBA President and CEO Pete Ruane said. “Our Getting Beyond Gridlock proposal would stop the seven year cycle of debt to future generations—now over $50 billion—that the presidents and Congress have used to maintain current funding.”
Ruane added that if there’s a better plan to fix the Highway Trust Fund, ARTBA will support it. “But we want to know now what it is and when Congress will be acting on it. Saying, ‘Just give us more time and trust us,’ doesn’t have any credibility anymore.”
The association is also running print ads in “The Washington Post, “CQ Roll Call” and “Politico.” The copy says it’s time for Congress and the President to “honestly explain the federal transportation investment situation to the American people and ask for their help in solving the nation’s mobility problems.”
In addition to the $50 billion debt mentioned in the TV spots, the print ad highlights that in passing 32 short-term program extensions, Congress has created so much uncertainty that every year state transportation departments have to cancel or delay projects, “jeopardizing private sector jobs and making capital investment and hiring decisions more risky.”
This week, ARTBA and APTA are airing 30-second spots on Washington’s top rated WTOP news talk radio that takes aim at all members of Congress and their staffs. Last week’s ad targeted nine key congressional and tax committee leaders from both parties.