In late May, Pres. Obama signed another short-term bill to fund America’s transportation needs — a two month patch that will allow states like Florida to continue funding badly-needed transportation projects through the crucial summer construction months.
Another short-term extension to December is currently making its way through Congress.
These actions demonstrate a long and frustrating cycle. It’s the 33rd short-term patch enacted by Congress in the last six years with number 34 in process. Especially in South Florida, with our rapidly growing population pushing our transportation infrastructure to the limit, these continued short-term solutions will not address our long-term needs.
The root of the problem is that the federal gasoline tax hasn’t been raised since 1993. When accounting for both inflation and the increased gas mileage of our vehicles, the gas tax alone simply can’t fund our transportation needs.
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Nowhere is this more evident than South Florida, where we are challenged to find resources to build capacity for additional commuters and identify funding to increase transit options.
In the meantime, Florida’s Department of Transportation has become a national model for doing more with less. FDOT’s creative thinking — financing critical projects through alternative methods — is helping create jobs and keep our regional economy moving. Likewise, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has funded numerous expansion projects on critical transportation arteries in Miami-Dade County which have helped to relieve congestion while also keeping the revenue raised from tolls in the local community and economy. Many of these projects would not have been possible if Miami had to rely exclusively on funding from the federal government.
While toll roads and local funding sources are part of the solution, a well-funded national transportation bill is necessary to continue the process of repairing America’s deteriorating transportation systems in order to increase our mobility, safety and quality of life across the country and here in our community. It is estimated that every dollar invested in transportation provides a $1.44 increase to the gross domestic product.
The investment helps commuters as well as the transportation and logistics companies who ship and deliver goods Americans need every day.
South Florida residents can contact our lawmakers and urge them to fund a long-term bill. The well-being of our state and country depends on it.
William Ciudad-Real, South Florida office leader, HNTB Corporation, Miami