By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
Evidence of America’s growing transportation infrastructure crisis continues to mount just three months after Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Elected leaders don’t have to look any farther than the Nation’s Capital, which in March took a one-two punch of bad news.
First, the National Park Service revealed that the Arlington Memorial Bridge needs to be completely rebuilt at an estimated cost of $250 million, or it could be closed to vehicle traffic within five years. Last year, tourist buses were banned from the bridge between the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery due to weight restrictions. Roughly 68,000 vehicles cross the bridge each weekday.
Then, officials at the region’s subway system suggested that portions of the Metro may have to close for up to six months to fix problems caused by years of deferred maintenance. Their March 30 announcement came two weeks after the entire Metro system was abruptly closed March 16 for an emergency inspection and repairs.
While these developments have been headline-grabbing reminders to lawmakers about what the FAST Act did not do, they are simply examples of the deteriorating and out-of-date transportation infrastructure facilities across the nation.
That’s why Congress cannot take a reprieve following the FAST Act’s passage and should get back to work to provide a long-term solution to grow revenues for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which pays for roads, bridges and public transit infrastructure. In January, the Congressional Budget Office estimated an $18 billion average annual gap between incoming HTF revenues and the amount needed to preserve exiting federal surface transportation investment levels once the FAST Act expires in 2020.
If something isn’t done to increase federal surface transportation investment, the nation’s second largest subway and one of its most iconic bridges may soon be closed to tourists, workers—even lawmakers.