As lawmakers pondered reauthorizing the Obama administration’s signature surface transportation bill, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs asked Heritage Foundation research associate David Ditch to share his views on the topic.
Ditch has spent years working on transportation and infrastructure issues and has found a lot not to like about the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Passed in December 2015, the law was set to expire after five years. He urged members of the committee to re-examine the bill closely.
“Everyone understands the post-pandemic world will be different from the pre-pandemic world,” he noted. “When it comes to transportation, a long-term increase in remote work will mean a reduction in commuting. A reduction of transit subsidies is also in is order.”
Indeed, Ditch recommended that committee members take a different approach in marking up the reauthorization bill:
Rather than simply expanding the flawed status quo, Congress should enact reforms including first, providing flexibility to low density states for the amount they spend on transit from their Highway Trust allocation. Second, prioritizing operations and maintenance of transit systems rather than expanding them. Third, eliminating costly federal mandates such as the Davis-Bacon Act. Fourth, reducing the amount of cross-subsidization between Americans who prefer different modes of travel. Such changes would enhance fairness and value for taxpayers across the country.
In a recent report on funding authorization for the Highway Trust Fund, Ditch laid out a roadmap on how to renew American infrastructure without breaking the bank.
“Legislators have a tremendous opportunity to improve the value of America’s infrastructure investments,” he wrote, noting that “[a]ttempting to do so by throwing federal taxpayer dollars at the issue has proven to be ineffective as economic stimulus, and leads to tremendous amounts of waste, inefficiency, and delay.”
Instead, Ditch recommended cutting red tape and turning more decision-making power over to state and local governments and the private sector. This, he argued, “would enable more infrastructure projects to finish at lower cost and in less time, providing maximum economic benefits to the nation.”
To view the Senate hearing in its entirety, click here.