Transportation infrastructure is one of the things government is supposed to do – and conservatives should make sure it is done exceptionally well. Unfortunately, since completing the Interstate Highway System decades ago, the federal government has gotten pretty bad at maintaining and improving our nation’s transportation infrastructure.
Today, the federal highway program is funded by a gasoline tax of 18.4 cents on every gallon sold at the pump. That money is supposed to be going into steel, concrete, and asphalt in the ground. Instead, too much of it is being wasted thanks to special interests and regulations.
First, at least 25 percent our gas tax dollars are diverted to non-highway projects including, mass transit, bike paths, and other boondoggles like “vegetation management.” Then federal Davis Bacon price fixing regulations hike construction costs by at least 10 percent. Finally, federal environmental regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act add an average of 6.1 years in planning delays to any project.
Higher costs, lengthy delays, wasteful non-highway projects...why would any American want their transportation dollars routed through Washington? What value-added do federal bureaucrats really provide?
State and local governments already finance three quarters of all infrastructure spending. Now that the Interstate highway system is completed, they should be encouraged to do even more.
Transportation Empowerment Act
The Transportation Empowerment Act does exactly that. It gradually lowers the federal gas tax and reduces the federal highway program — focusing it on purely interstate projects — so states can implement more of their own infrastructure priorities.
This would allow all states to keep more of their transportation dollars, and it would enable those dollars to go even further, as state policymakers could pursue projects that balance traffic mitigation and environmental protection according to local needs and concerns, instead of wasting resources complying with costly labor regulations and spending requirements attached to federal money.
More stability. Lower costs. Better infrastructure. That is the conservative vision for infrastructure reform.