America’s chock-a-block with landmarks, beaches, and mountains — if you can reach them. If you’re traveling, you’ll inevitably face mind-numbing congestion, flight delays and rail interruptions. And our headaches are going to get dramatically worse if Congress doesn’t tackle infrastructure modernization.
The Highway Trust Fund — which pays for our nation’s roads, bridges and highways — is about to run out of money. Here’s why: The Trust is funded by the federal gas tax, set at 18.4 cents per gallon for the past 21 years. But since then, cars have become much more fuel-efficient. That, plus inflation, has stretched the fund way too thin.
This is terrible news for travelers. American air travel infrastructure is in such bad shape that Thanksgiving-like passenger congestion will be a year-round reality at nearly all of the top 50 U.S. airports within the decade. Labor Day-like traffic will soon plague U.S. highways on the average day of the week.
It’s also bad for the economy. More than three out of four domestic trips are for leisure, which means they’re ostensibly optional. Direct spending on this travel totaled $621.4 billion in 2013, generating $91.9 billion in tax revenue. If our roads and transportation projects are gridlocked, Americans will avoid the headache and just stay home, which will hurt our economy and our quality of life.
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Unfortunately, numerous reports about increased traffic, structurally deficient bridges, inadequate public transportation and potholed roads hasn’t spurred Congress to act. But if officials hear directly from you, their constituents, they might finally take notice.
That’s why we created the “I’m Stuck” app (for Apple and Android phones), which allows people to notify their representative or senator when they’re stuck in traffic, on the tarmac, or in a train. The pre-set message demands action on the Highway Trust Fund. You can add in your own comments, or just hit send.
America needs a long-term plan to modernize and build top-notch transportation systems that make our commutes reliable and allow goods to move more efficiently across the country. It’s time for the public to tell Washington to get America moving again and replenish the Highway Trust Fund.
Ed Rendell is the former governor of Pennsylvania and the co-chair of Building America’s Future. Dow is president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association representing all segments of travel in America. They wrote this for the Washington Post.