Houston Truck Deals recently posted on the problems with Houston’s I-45 highway and the lack of attention this seems to be getting from the agencies involved. I-45 is not an isolated case – the problem is nationwide.
Congress held a “listening session” on February 19th which was attended by industry figures and trucking association representatives. Amongst the politicians present was Representative John Mica (R-FL) who acts as chairman of the influential House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
A major problem is that the US is spending so little on road infrastructure compared to major competitors in the global market. China spends 9% of its annual gross domestic product (GDP), whilst the Europeans are spending 5% of theirs. In contrast the United States allocates a measly 2% of GDP upon road infrastructure, which is why we are facing so many issues with our freight logistics and overall transportation efficiency.
There have been many proposals put forward to improve transportation efficiency, particularly when traffic congestion is causing everyone headaches and not just the trucking industry. Inefficient road infrastructure affects every facet of society and our economy – last year, it was estimated that 4 billion man hours was lost due to traffic congestion alone. Th cost to businesses, individuals and the economy as a whole is amplified even further when the it was also estimated that 5 billion gallons of gas were also wasted by vehicles stuck on highways which had become glorified parking lots.
By 2025, the amount of freight being shifted through the US transportation network is set to double. For all the talk of boosting the rail networks and making more effective use of intermodal transportation systems, the bulk of freight will still be put on the road. That means more truck, more traffic and a great deal more congestion unless serious investment I made in the road networks.
The very big question is who and how will all this be paid for?
The most probable way is to increase the federal gas tax which was set in 1993 and hasn’t been altered since. Currently federal gas tax adds just over 18 cents to a gallon of gas and 24.4 cents to the cost of a gallon of diesel. Increasing these tax levies to 31 cents and 42 cents respectively will generate $25 billion a year in revenues which could be invested directly back into the road network.
Assuming this is raised, there are two questions. First, will $25 billion be enough to revitalize and rejuvenate America’s battered road network? Probably not, but that leads to the second question of how will the money raised be spent anyhow? What is desperately needed is a structured and targeted way of tackling those parts of the infrastructure which most need attention – major bridges and roads which are heavily traveled are prime candidates.