Local roads would miss out in Gov. Mike Pence’s $1 billion spending plan

(A Presidential Debate schedule and transcripts are here. – Admin.) IndyStar.com By Tony Cook 10/15/15 Gov. Mike Pence’s proposed $1 billion spending plan on highways over the next four years would represent an increase over current spending — but it leaves out a large portion of Indiana’s roads and bridges. That’s because the plan would only fund state-maintained highways and bridges. While those are generally the most traveled, they make up only about a third of the state’s transportation infrastructure. Counties and cities maintain most of the rest. But they would not receive … Continue reading

Commentary: Should trail development be funded by the federal government?

By Russ Phillips

Congress recently returned to Washington and is faced with several critical issues in the coming weeks, among them a Highway Transportation bill.

The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) uses 2 percent of the federal Highway Account for trail development and other non-highway purposes. For FY 2015 this is $820 million.

Some may consider this an insignificant amount when total federal expenditures are considered. However, it is this thinking that has led to our federal government having an $18.3 trillion national debt. Just like a home budget, priorities must be established.

Trail development should be solely funded by state and local tax dollars, if at all. These levels of government are more accountable and more easily influenced by the citizenry than the national level.

Rails-to-Trails (RtoT), the leading advocate for trails in the nation, has 160,000 members and supporters and is aggressively lobbying for the continuation of the TAP. Forty-four percent of rail-trails in the U.S. have been built with federal support and more than 8,000 miles of former rail corridors “are waiting to be turned into great trails,” according to RtoT. In June a bill was introduced in the House that would have eliminated TAP. RtoT notes, “More than 12,000 supporters emailed your representatives and senators to oppose their bill—within 36 hours of our alert.” In July a Senate amendment was introduced to eliminate the TAP. You can be sure that this advocacy group is being heard on this matter. If you do not support TAP have you let your Senators and Representative know? RtoT has even stated, “…senators seeking to eliminate the program lack a constituency.” Really? I suspect that there are many, given the condition of highways, bridges and other infrastructure, that feel the federal gas tax should not be used for trail development. It is time for them to be heard.

Rail-to-Trails, also referred to as Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC), is a client of two registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

What else is Rails-to-Trails saying?
…”Senate Bill Inadequately Funds Walking, Biking, but Provides Innovative Financing Options” (6/23/15)
…”Senate Passes ‘So-So’ Federal Transportation Bill. What’s Next for Trails?” (8/4/15)
…”Congress on Trails: Next Steps for Transportation Legislation” (9/17/15)

Do your Senators and Representative know your opinion on this matter? Are you part of Rails-to-Trails 160,000 members and supporters or do you feel differently about federal gas tax funds being used regarding trails?

What you need to know about state and federal gas taxes

The main source of transportation funding — federal and state gas taxes — has not kept up with the need IndyStar.com By Maureen Groppe, Star Washington Bureau 9/7/15 WASHINGTON – Federal and state policymakers haven’t figured out how to deal with the fact that the main source of transportation funding — federal and state gas taxes — has not kept up with the need. The details: What is the federal gas tax? The federal government imposes an 18.4 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline and a 24.4 cents-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. … Continue reading

Transportation funding at a crossroads in Indiana, U.S.

The state is not collecting enough in gasoline taxes to adequately maintain its roads and bridges IndyStar.com By Maureen Groppe, Star Washington Bureau 9/7/15 WASHINGTON – Are you willing to spend $6.62 more a month in federal gasoline taxes to get the nation’s roads and bridges in good condition? How about spending $5.50 a month more just to keep transportation infrastructure from deteriorating below its current “D” rating? Or would you pay an extra $2.50 a month to get Indiana’s gas tax back to the buying power it had when the … Continue reading

My Question for the Republican Presidential Debate

The New York Times By Thomas L. Friedman, Op-Ed Columnist 8/5/15 If I got to ask one question of the presidential aspirants at Thursday’s Fox Republican debate, it would be this: “As part of a 1982 transportation bill, President Ronald Reagan agreed to boost the then 4-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax to 9 cents, saying, ‘When we first built our highways, we paid for them with a gas tax,’ adding, ‘It was a fair concept then, and it is today.’ Do you believe Reagan was right then, and would you agree to raise … Continue reading

Here’s a fix for highways

The Rochester Sentinel By Patrick J. Toomey, U.S. Sen., R-Penn and Dan Coats U.S. Sen., R-Ind. 7/17/15 Voice of the People Every day, American families get in their vehicles and drive. Whether it’s dropping the kids off at school, commuting to work or going to the supermarket, we rely on our highways, bridges and roads to get us where we need to go. But can our transportation infrastructure rely on Washington? A substantial percentage of each state’s transportation budget relies on money from the federal Highway Trust Fund. This fund is financed … Continue reading

Wheel tax vote ahead

Council chooses highest rate; says it wont amount to much The Rochester Sentinel By Wesley Dehne, Staff Writer 5/21/15 Fulton County Council hopes to start collecting on Jan. 1 a wheel tax and excise surtax to help cover road repair and maintenance expenses. That would generate as much as $738,351 a year, which is very little compared to what the county needs, council members said. The council received little opposition from the public Tuesday as it discussed the taxes. It chose to implement the highest taxes it can. They will … Continue reading

Only 1 of 9 Indiana U.S. Representatives co-sponsor “Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act” – WHY?

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Introduce Long-Term Solution to Address Highway Trust Fund

H.R.1846 – Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act (text)

Current list of cosponsors

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Indiana must find a way to deal with big issues

State must find a way to deal with big issues The Indianapolis Star By John Ketzenberger 5/10/15 It already seems like an eon has passed since the Indiana General Assembly called it quits on a tumultuous session just 10 days ago. Is it too soon to start looking ahead? The simple answer is no, there are a lot of important issues that should get more time and attention from lawmakers, including transportation funding, rationalizing the tax structure between local and state government, and ensuring the state’s tax revenue streams are … Continue reading

Time is running out on federal highway funding

The Washington Post
By Ashley Halsey III

With Congress on the brink of another failure at the end of this month, the usual bickering over who is to blame for not passing a promised long-term transportation bill was in full bloom Thursday on Capitol Hill.

“Our friends on the other side of the aisle haven’t issued a peep about what to do about it,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, flanked by four Democratic colleagues at an afternoon news conference. “Please tell us how you intend to avoid a highway shutdown.”

The only plausible answer appears to be extending the current extension, which expires May 31.

Another extension would be the 33rd time in six years that Congress has faltered when faced with the need for a new transportation authorization measure…
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