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emer ging issu es 53 tion of revenue options is used, the result will be more To the extent that there are user fees, the United sensible and sustainable. The commission recommended States also needs a unified, broad-based trust fund, but protecting the Highway Trust Fund. If a VMT tax is perhaps it should be focused on issues such as new capac- implemented nationwide, it would take a fee of 2 cents ity or maintaining a state of good repair rather than on per mile to fund the current program. The United States mode. will pay in the end, either by not having the infrastruc- The National Surface Transportation Policy and ture it needs or by paying to maintain what it has and Revenue Study Commission suggested approaching putting the needed improvements in place. Financing is transportation from the perspective of a utility. not the solution, it just affects the timing of the solutions. By commingling demand management and revenue Funding is the issue. generation, congestion pricing should play a role. The climate bill offers some interesting ideas, as do partnerships. Crystal Ball Calculus Anne Canby of the Surface Transportation Policy Project Questions and Answers observed that the world is different today. Some envision a smaller federal role, and the conversation is focused on Question: If it is clear that the federal government will how much money needs to be raised rather than on how not be able to supply the same level of funding for trans- those resources should be allocated. There is a shift in the portation as in the past, should the states fill the void? national interest with new priorities and new players at If so, the federal government should allow states to toll the table. The KerryLieberman climate change discus- the Interstate. sion is a new paradigm throwing a wrench in the way the Answer: Voter understanding and support put state United States has traditionally approached transporta- funding at risk. tion funding and policy. The emerging idea is that there may be new ways to pay for transportation. There has Question: Was the commission charged with solving never been a connection between what we pay and what everyone's problems? Did it consider reducing the fed- its costs to provide transportation. The motor fuel tax eral role in funding our transportation needs? depends more on use rather than costs. The user system Answer: The majority of the members of the com- is mixed and contrary to transportation goals. We have mission support a narrower federal role in funding the not agreed on what we need more money for and at what nation's transportation program, but this kind of recom- level of government it should be paid. mendation was not within the commission's purview. Ms. Canby urged us to think more about manag- The commission's role was to identify options that will ing demand and to consider how to pay for operations allow us to generate revenue that will cover the cost of and maintenance costs once the infrastructure is built. delivering the program the nation needs. Sprawl is not sustainable. She questioned whether the federal-aid system is still relevant and said that there is Question: Maintaining the economic competitiveness of a need to develop a new relationship with private rail the United States is critical. If responsibility for transpor- and aviation suppliers and tap into the value that can be tation funding were devolved to the states, how could we captured in other modes. But doing so will not tap into maintain competitiveness in the face of 50 independent money at the federal level. This raises the following ques- policies? tion: Why should the federal level be involved in paying Answer: Tolling the Interstate is not a suitable fund- for bad local decisions? ing option for all of our transportation needs, but doing Ms. Canby offered a number of interesting possibili- so is a viable and an appropriate way to maintain the ties for guiding transportation finance and policy in the Interstate system, which is integral to our economic future: competitiveness.

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