Fix The Roads
Making the case for investing in infrastructure
By Mindy Long
Congressman Mark Schauer (D-Mich.) is a first-term representative, but he has been serving constituents in the state of Michigan since he was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 1997. Now that he shapes policy from the nation’s capitol, he is heavily involved in transportation and agricultural issues. Rep. Schauer is a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which oversees transportation infrastructure, maintenance of roads and federal transportation regulatory agencies. He also serves on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. His role on the House Agricultural Committee means he shapes policy surrounding renewable energy and biofuels.
Q In examining the highway bill that authorizes federal surface transportation programs for highways, what changes would you like to see to ensure our transportation system will meet America’s needs in the coming years?
A We clearly need to invest in our crumbling infrastructure. There is no vision of a strong America that doesn’t include safe and secure transportation and transit. More specifically, as the majority caucus member of the committee from Michigan, I believe the next highway bill must fully address the decades-long disparity in road funding, under which certain states are always winner and other states, like Michigan, are always losers. I’d like to flip that
formula for the next highway bill.
Q What are you doing to guarantee the next surface transportation bill will improve our nation’s energy security?
A We need to make transportation cleaner. That means providing incentives for our diesel construction fleet to upgrade out-of-date equipment. These types of incentives could also be extended to the transport fleet, and used for such things as emissions retrofitting. The most-discussed incentive would be a tax credit that would help finance the purchase and installation of clean diesel technologies, many of which are designed and manufactured in my home state of Michigan. Additionally, we should expand our efforts in commuter rail and provide adequate funding for transit agencies, both of which will reduce congestion on our highways.
Q How will you improve the movement of goods and protect professional truckers from increases in their costs of doing business, specifically tolls and taxes?
A New investments in infrastructure will absolutely assist with improving the movement of goods. As for paying for those investments, certainly no single sector should be burdened with a disproportionate share of shouldering those new investments.
Q The highway trust fund, which pays for transportation projects and is funded through fuel taxes, is shrinking. What methods of funding do you propose to ensure there is adequate support?
A The public supports strong funding for transportation because Americans understand that our economy cannot recover without improvements to our infrastructure. The Ways & Means Committee has not yet written the funding provisions for the bill, but — as I noted previously — no one sector should bear a disproportionate share of any new investment we make.
Q Rest area commercialization, which would change federal law so states could sell food and fuel at rest areas, often goes hand in hand with public-private partnerships. Commercialization would undoubtedly close many of the travel plazas that provide 90 percent of truck parking. What is your position on commercialization?
A While this issue hasn’t yet come to a head, certainly any change to the current situation would need to recognize — at a minimum — the substantial investments that people have made to build their businesses in accordance with the current laws. It would be unfair to pull the rug out from under those who built their businesses under the assumption that states wouldn’t undercut their efforts.
The views expressed in Trucking Matters are those of the interview subject and do not necessarily reflect the views of Road King, its editors or affiliates. If you have questions for future columns, send to firstname.lastname@example.org.