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U.S. needs transportation leadership

Why can't Congress get its act together and fund a highway bill?

It is amazing to me that in a time of seriously deteriorating infrastructure that the U.S. House of Representatives might consider an inadequate six-year highway bill ("Not another shutdown," Sept. 9). We are all aware that the American infrastructure has often driven America's economy. Infrastructure built for and after World War II and the construction of our interstate highway system brought booming economic times to our nation.

We also know that current revenue sources are not fully funding highway needs and that this has led to significant deterioration of American highways. Thirty-plus temporary extensions to our inadequate highway funding act shows a lack of congressional and presidential leadership.

How could we choose another short term highway extension over a proper fix for highway funding? The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, TRIP, the American Society of Civil Engineers and many others have delineated a need for over $100 billion for highway construction and maintenance funds annually. We trudge along with the current inadequate trust fund income of less than $35 billion per year and borrow another $10-$15 billion a year from the general fund. I believe that our nation is currently $19 trillion in debt. How can we and our leaders be so stupid? Can anyone really borrow billions of dollars a year from someone who is already trillions of dollars in debt?

Poor roads cost the average Marylander over $1,000 per year in auto repairs and lost time to congestion. An immediate 50-cent per gallon tax indexed to the consumer price index would cost the average motorist less than $500 per year while saving that same motorist a $1,000 a year in costs for auto repairs, new tires and delays. This same motorist would gain precious hours with their family rather than sitting in gridlock developing a serious case of road rage!

A proper fix to the highway trust fund would improve quality of life for the average American and restore a positive vision to our nation's highway systems at the federal, state and local levels. Our economy would improve and many of our jobless could be re-employed. A properly structured immediate increase in federal gasoline tax would save the average motorist money and improve safety while reducing congestion.

Our current legislative leaders, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and especially our congressional transportation champion, Rep. Bill Shuster, are all satisfied with the status quo. That status quo being an inadequate, underfunded, substandard highway system which risk the lives of our family members while wasting our hard earned money and taking us deeper and deeper into debt. We could be spending less overall while reducing wasted time and reducing overall emissions through congestion mitigation.

I would submit that each of our federally-elected representatives from Maryland should introduce and support a bipartisan federal gasoline tax modeled after Maryland's own recently enacted motor fuel tax increase. Incremental and inflation indexed! Remember that gasoline is now at least $1.20 per gallon cheaper for the consumer than it was when Maryland passed its much-needed legislation.

Increased federal gasoline tax dedicated solely to highway construction would improve our quality of life, help the nation's unemployment and spur our economy while simultaneously improving safety and reducing emissions. It is time for leadership on this issue from our delegation.

Brian Dolan, Glen Burnie

The writer is president of the Maryland Asphalt Association

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