Arkansas Trucking Association

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Up Front- Bridge to Broke

 shannonnewton2Shannon Newton
 President, ATA

If you are one of the Northern Virginia to Washington D.C. commuters (members of Congress excepted) affected by the recent and widely publicized Memorial Bridge lane closures, know that I feel your pain.

It is fitting that the most recent example of failed transportation funding efforts is a highly-travelled bridge in our nation’s capital’s backyard. The emergency repairs for the Memorial Bridge serve as a symbolic and timely rallying cry for Congressional action.

With the bridge as their backdrop, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Virginia Rep. Don Beyer, called for long-term congressional investment in transportation infrastructure. "There is nothing more emblematic of Congress’ failure to invest in our nation’s infrastructure than the bridge that brings people into our nation’s capital, a national memorial, falling apart,” Beyer stated.

A long-term solution to not just replenish but sufficiently and continually fund the federal Highway Trust Fund, which provides states funding to maintain transportation infrastructure, is one of the direst issues our industry and nation faces.

Congress has passed temporary fixes (33 quick fixes in six years) because they cannot agree on a means of permanent funding. The federal gas tax, the primary source for the Highway Trust Fund, hasn’t increased in more than two decades. The funds currently generated are insufficient. The miles Americans drove once paid for the roads and bridges, but with improved fuel efficiency and no adjustment for inflation, those days are over.

There is no easy fix. Still, leadership on this issue is about solving the problem in a way that protects public safety and moves our nation forward.

The Memorial Bridge may be Congress’s wake up call. Perhaps sitting in traffic for a few months will help make the point.

But we should all be doing all we can to ensure they act in the nation’s best interests.

Here at home, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has suspended 70 projects worth $282 million this year because of the uncertainty over the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

More frighteningly, according to 2013 data, the Federal Highway Administration determined that 22.7 percent of bridges in Arkansas are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. And according to the American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 Report Card statistics, driving on roads in need of repair costs Arkansas motorists $634 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $308 per motorist. Thirty-nine percent of all Arkansas’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

This national problem has real implications close to home. Long-term funding enables states and local governments to support projects that provide millions of good paying jobs, protect public safety and improve our economy.

Real leadership keeps the roads paved, the bridges standing and everybody upright. One look at the Memorial Bridge and it’s clear: we’re still waiting on real leaders to show up.

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Arkansas Trucking Association
PO Box 3476 (72203)
1401 West Capitol Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201

(501) 372-3462 | Phone
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Our Mission

  • PROTECT the collective interests of trucking companies in the political and regulatory arenas.
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