Transportation study group envisions federal truck-only freight network

The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission's Jack Schenendorf and Patrick Quinn also see congestion pricing, gas tax increases and greater regulation of public private partnerships as potential solutions to the US' infrastructure funding crisis.

Jack Schnendorf and Patrick Quinn, members of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, are advocating congestion pricing, gas tax increases, a federal truck-only freight network and greater regulation of private public partnerships as ways to alleviate the US' infrastructure funding crisis.

Schenendorf and Quinn discussed the recommendations at the California Infrastructure Summit in Anaheim on Tuesday.

The commission, which in July concluded a two-year study on the nation's infrastructure funding crisis, found that governments on all levels need to increase their annual spending from the current $87 billion to at least $225 billion to meet needed capacity increases in the US.

To come up with these funds, the commission recommended increasing user fees and taxes for use of infrastructure, such as the federal gas tax as well as the creation of a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax for US drivers. The group also recommended congestion pricing, in which users of transportation in higher-density population areas pay more during peak hours.

Quinn said that “congestion has simply been a creeping cancer on our nation's economy”. At 8 percent annual growth, he said that congestion is growing faster than the rate of the economy. He said annual national highway congestion costs total nearly $170 billion, citing a study from Texas Transportation Institute Survey.

A national federal trucking network would take congestion out of the system by providing tolled, truck-only routes through the nation, Quinn, a co-founder of trucking company US Xpress, said. The idea is in a conceptual phase but Quinn said he hoped Congress would consider it in upcoming legislation. 

The government also needs to regulate PPPs more to keep the public confident in private sector participation, especially given the public's dismal view of Wall Street, Schenendorf said.

“We've disagreed with the [Bush] administration's laissez faire approach. We felt regulation at the federal level was appropriate and needed,” Schenendorf said. “We've seen what happened on Wall Street when you use a laissez faire approach.” 

Congress created the commission in 2005. Its final report is available on its website, www.transportationfortomorrow.org.