|July 3, 2014
Highway fund is the road to our future
By Senator Jon Tester
Montanans hit the road for many reasons. Visiting friends and family. Getting our first-rate products to market. Or just going for a Sunday drive.
But if we allow our roads and bridges to crumble Ė something we are in danger of doing Ė those rides will get a lot more rugged.
The Highway Trust Fund supports road projects in every corner of our country. Here in Montana, it helps rebuild roads and bridges in small towns like Bainville and cities like Missoula. It keeps our communities stitched together and supports a modern transportation system.
And the jobs created by infrastructure investment canít be outsourced.
From the time of our Founding Fathers, folks knew the importance of a strong transportation system, one that could keep goods and services flowing quickly and efficiently from one town or state to another. So did President Eisenhower, who pushed through the Federal Aid Highway Act to create our modern interstate highway system that today makes it easier to drive from Seattle to Miami.
Because Montana is a rural state with lots of roads to maintain, we overwhelmingly make out well under the current system. For every $1 we put into federal coffers, we get around $2.50 in return. That money gets funneled to projects across our state, creating jobs and helping farmers haul their grain to market and mill owners take their lumber to outlets.
But the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money, jeopardizing jobs and our economy.
The fund, which depends on revenues from the gas tax, hasnít been updated in more than 20 years. And with Americans driving more fuel-efficient cars, the money thatís coming into the fund will continue to shrink at the same time construction costs are going up.
In the last few years, we have made good progress on reducing our deficits. But cutting spending cannot come at the expense of our infrastructure. Our local economies depend on smart investments to keep on trucking. To put it bluntly, our hard work will be for naught if our trucks lose axels to potholes and our tractor-trailers canít make their deliveries because of failing bridges.
Thatís not the modern transportation system Montana needs to be a leader in todayís economy. We must improve how we maintain and build the roads and bridges that Montana families and small businesses need.
In the Senate, Iím working to reform and re-authorize the Highway Trust Fund in the next highway bill. We only have a few months to find a responsible solution, and Iím hopeful Congress can come together to get it done for the American people.
No one enjoys the sight of orange cones and blinking lights along the side of the road, particularly when something important awaits us at our destination. But investing in a modern transportation system creates hundreds of Montana jobs and supports a strong economy.
At a time when our economy is becoming more interconnected, the Highway Trust Fund is more important than ever.
If we donít invest in it, Montanaís economy will be left in the rearview mirror.
Senator Jon Tester is a third-generation farmer from Big Sandy. Montanans elected him to the U.S. Senate in 2006 and re-elected him in 2012.