GCA Celebrates 60th Anniversary of the Interstate by highlighting the need for continued federal investment
President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act on June 29, 1956 signaling the start of construction of the Interstate Highway System, a project considered one of the greatest public works projects in history. The GCA celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Interstate with a deterioarating concrete birthday cake with flares instead of candles to bring attention to the poor condition of our interstate system and the need for continued federal investment in this critical element of our infrastructure.
The GCA, together with the Long Island Contractors’ Association (LICA), the Construction Industry Council (CIC), AAA New York State, and the Trucking Association of New York held a press event in recongition of the Interstate's 60th birthday to warn the region’s congressional delegation that some seventy-two percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in New York are carried by trucks driving on deteriorating Interstate roads; but without an increase in the federal excise tax on gasoline, the city’s very ability to function will be placed at economic risk.
“New York may depend on mass transit to get people to work; but what they eat, the office supplies they need, the milk their children drink, the clothes they wear and much more all arrive on the Interstate road system. And that road network is in slow motion disintegration because Congress refuses to consider raising the excise tax on a gallon of gas,” stated Denise Richardson, GCA’s executive director.
Richardson said the region’s Interstate system is becoming a victim of time, advancing automotive technology, neglect and the lack of political will. “The gasoline tax is the single largest source of transportation infrastructure funding. For over two decades, the federal gas tax has remained at a flat rate of 18.4 cents per gallon, meaning that the typical driver today is paying approximately the same $3 per tank of gas to support our road network that they did during 1993. Those dollars don’t even begin to cover the cost of repair and upkeep and the imbalance is only getting worse.”
An environmentally driven trend
LICA executive board member Joseph K. Posillico, observed, “Improved automotive gasoline mileage coupled with the arrival of viable electric cars means that gasoline demand will continue to decrease. That is great for the environment but bad news for a road network being starved of funds at a time when it needs to carry vehicles regardless of their energy efficiency or fuel source. There won’t be a 100thanniversary of the Interstate system if we don’t address the current band aid approach to funding.”
Ross Pepe, President of the Construction Industry Council, reminded, “The Highway Trust Fund and fuel tax in large part pay for the needed improvements to the nation’s and New York State’s deteriorated Interstate Highway System. There is no better way to celebrate 60 years of vital service to our growth and prosperity than to raise the bar by ensuring sufficient resources to renew and improve roads, bridges and mass transit systems for future generations. It is one of the few areas where New York taxpayers return on tax dollars exceeds their investment paid at the pump!”
Patrick Hyland, Executive Director of the New York Metropolitan Trucking Association, said, “There is little doubt that the health of our interstate highway system is directly related to the economic health of New York. It also has a direct impact on the bottom line of every company that moves its products by road. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow. On the anniversary of the Interstate System, we need to better understand what is at stake.”
John A. Corlett, AAA New York State, Legislative Chairman, said, “Last year Congress made great strides by passing a five-year transportation bill, but tens of billions of dollars in additional funding is still needed to significantly improve America’s crumbling Interstates. The steep price to repair bad roads is expected to rise even higher in the years ahead. Since the Interstate system was first funded, the number of vehicles traveling on U.S. roads has increased by 300 percent and the annual miles traveled has increased by 387 percent. We urge lawmakers to keep their eye on the ball to identify a sustainable transportation funding source for the future.”
The group unveiled a 60th birthday cake made up of concrete and 6 road flares. “It’s inedible of course,” noted Richardson, “but then again, so is the current federal funding formula.”