Letter Re: America’s Interstate Highway and Freeway System in Decline

Hello James,
Another indicator of America’s decline: our interstate highway system. [The following was in part excerpted from a Department of Transportation history web page. and from an article at The Tax Foundation web site.] The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1952 authorized the first funding specifically for construction of the interstate highway system, but it was only a token amount of $25 million a year for fiscal years (FY) 1954 and 1955. Legislation in 1954 authorized an additional $175 million annually for FY 1956 and 1957.
Under the leadership of President Eisenhower, the question of how to fund the Interstate System was resolved with enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. It served as a catalyst for the System’s development and, ultimately, its completion. Title I of the 1956 Act increased the System’s proposed length to 41,000 miles. It also called for nationwide standards for design of the System, authorized an accelerated program, established a new method for apportioning funds among the States, changed the name to the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, and set the Federal Government’s share of project cost at 90 percent.
Title II of the Act – entitled the Highway Revenue Act of 1956 – created the Highway Trust Fund as a dedicated source for the Interstate System.
Revenue from the Federal gas and other motor-vehicle user taxes was credited to the Highway Trust Fund to pay the Federal share of Interstate and all other Federal-aid highway projects. In this way, the Act guaranteed construction of all segments on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, thus satisfying one of President Eisenhower’s primary requirements, namely that the program be self-financing without contributing to the Federal budget deficit.
However, it was inevitable that politicians (Republican and Democrat) would cast a greedy eye on the highway trust fund.
The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1968 included the first recorded specifically earmarked highway project, funded through the highway trust fund. The popularity of earmarking projects grew so much that President Ronald Reagan vetoed the 1987 transportation bill because of the largesse of its 152 demonstration projects.
The most recent highway bill, SAFETEA-LU, was passed by large majorities in Congress and signed by President Bush on August 10, 2005. SAFETEA-LU authorized $286.5 billion for transportation programs from fiscal years 2004-2009. The Bush administration insisted that the highway bill should be entirely funded with resources from the Highway Trust Fund. The 2005 transportation bill shattered all earmark records by containing 6,373 separate earmarks worth $24.2 billion.
What sort of spending programs are contained in those earmarks? In the 2005 highway bill, one earmark worth $6 million dollars went toward graffiti elimination in New York, another sent $2.95 million to Alaska for a film about state roads, and nearly $4 million was earmarked for the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio, and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

And where are we today? If you travel the interstates, you know the state of disrepair they are in. What do the politicians propose? Why of course!!! Let’s continue to collect the highway use taxes, but in addition, let’s charge a toll for using these roads that the taxpayers paid to build!

Here is a wire service news story that ran on Sunday, December 17, 2006:
Indiana leased its 157 miles of interstate toll road for the next 75 years to a foreign consortium. In return, the state received $3.8 billion up front. That’s right, $3.8 billion.
Commuters in Minneapolis and San Diego are paying to drive in a fast lane, while others creep along nearby. The trip in the so-called Lexus can cost from $2 to $8, depending on traffic, and the charges can be paid with a credit card.
Wyoming has had some tentative public discussion about the benefits of making Interstate 80 an old-fashioned toll road. Travelers might pay $12 to $15 to drive the entire 400-mile section across southern Wyoming, or about 3 cents a mile, according to Wyoming state Sen. Michael Von Flatern.
Nebraska leaders haven’t started that kind of discussion, yet, but retiring state Sen. Tom Baker of Trenton thinks they ought to.
It would be interesting to put together a committee with people from Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Wyoming, said Baker, chairman of the Nebraska Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
I-80 tolls would generate some revenue, primarily from folks who are passing through, said Baker, who leaves office in January. – Dutch in Wyoming