“There is tremendous potential for technology to make our infrastructure safer and less costly, reduce congestion, improve the efficiency of the entire network and even alleviate the growing demands on our infrastructure,” Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves, R-Mo., said in his opening remarks.
The country can’t address its long-term funding issues without fixing the Highway Trust Fund, he said, and the “only viable future” is in a transition to a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) program, which is a policy of charging motorists based on how many miles they have traveled.
“I see this as the best way to ensure that everyone contributes to the Trust Fund and helps maintain and improve our surface transportation system,” Graves said. “VMT is already being applied at the state level, and it’s time to pursue this solution nationally.”
Larry Willis, president of the transportation trades department at AFL-CIO, said he supported a transition to a mileage-based user fee.
“As gasoline vehicles become more efficient and electric vehicles become more prevalent, contributions to the Highway Trust Fund will continue to dry up, leaving us back in the same position we are today,” he said in his testimony.
Others — such as Eric Fanning, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, and Rich McArdle, president of UPS Freight — delivered testimonies about other benefits emerging technologies could have on American infrastructure and the supply chain.
Fanning said the potential for developing aviation technologies could help address infrastructure needs without involving significant infrastructure costs. Urban air mobility, drones, commercial space transportation and supersonic flight all could reduce congestion and increase the efficiency and capacity of the transportation system.
“Unfortunately, right now the United States is lagging behind much of the world,” Fanning said in his testimony. “Unless we take action, it could be the Europeans defining the regulations the world follows, not the United States.”
Supply chain fulfillment operations have transitioned to a “manufacture-to-order” model, McArdle said, which is a transition away from the inventory “manufacture-to-supply” model. Emerging technologies require modern infrastructure for the innovations to achieve their desired effect, he said.
“Here’s the bottom line: A robust, long-term federal infrastructure modernization program, combined with greater investment by state, local and private stakeholders, can engender the partnerships necessary to ensure our nation has a 21st century infrastructure network,” McArdle said in his testimony. “But without a serious commitment from federal lawmakers, our nation will not make the kind of progress demanded by the challenges we’re facing.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said investments need to be made to modernize infrastructure for future generations. He said governors support the incorporation of technology and streamlining the process of project delivery.
“Governors support federal actions that streamline project delivery, reduce approval and completion times and increase transparency but also achieve the intent that underlies critical environmental, planning, design and procurement reviews,” Walz said. “States believe that federal infrastructure program reforms are the most effective when they promote state flexibility by omitting unnecessary federal requirements.”
Kristin Meira, the executive director of Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, said it’s important to streamline the project deliver process to U.S. ports, which support more than 23 million jobs and generate more than $320 billion in annual federal, state and local taxes.
She spoke about the Army Corps of Engineers reforms enacted under the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014, which set deadlines on the time and costs of project studies, known as the 3x3x3 process.
“We need to do everything we can to be efficient and being ‘big ship ready’ is key,” she said in her testimony.
The Port of Seattle was one of the first projects to complete the 3x3x3 planning process, Meira said, which resulted in WRDA authorization for its deepening project. Tacoma also recently started planning for its deepening study, she said.
“These deepening projects will ensure that we grow both our import and export capacity, increase the number of ships calling on U.S. ports, maintain U.S. jobs and serve our farmers and manufacturers who depend on these ports to get their goods to the market,” Meira said.