By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional affairs, ARTBA

U.S. senators this week signaled their support for federal investment in transportation infrastructure.

“The challenge that this administration faces, as previous ones have faced, is finding a way to pay for the much-needed infrastructure spending without increasing taxes on those who are least able to pay them or using budget gimmicks that simply lead to more deficit spending and add to our nation’s ever-growing debt,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of the transportation subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, said during a March 8 hearing. “I think it is important that we explore all potential sources of revenues that will allow us to invest in our nation’s infrastructure.”

Current levels of federal, state, and local funding are “insufficient to bring our transportation network into a state of good repair,” subcommittee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said.

“What I hope we don’t see from the administration is a plan built around massive tax incentives for private investors,” he said. “This approach won’t fix our crumbling roads, replace lead water pipes, or build new schools without placing a huge financial burden on average Americans.”

Their remarks echo what other members of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee have said earlier this year.

Collins asked hearing witnesses about the best way to bridge the revenue gap in the Highway Trust Fund. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials COO Jim Tymon replied the existing motor fuels tax is still the most efficient way of collecting funds to meet U.S. transportation needs. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ed Mortimer supported him in that view.

Other witnesses at the hearing included: David Bernhardt, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation; Todd Hauptli, president and CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives; and Beth Osborne, senior policy advisor for Transportation for America.