ARTBA and ATA Celebrate 60th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System
Speakers Discuss Concern about the Future of Highway Funding
Washington D.C. – On June 29, 2016 the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) sponsored a Lunch & Policy Discussion at the National Press Club on the exact day of the 60th anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower signing legislation creating the interstate highway system. The event was co-hosted by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the WSTA was on-hand as a longtime ARTBA member.
Keynote speakers at the event were Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works as well as James P. Pinkerton who is a contributing writer to The American Conservative Magazine, Breitbart News, The Wall Street Journal, and frequent on-air guest to the Fox News Channel.
Sen. Inhofe spoke about how he and ranking EPW member Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA.) are in lockstep about the importance of resolving the funding shortfall in the federal highway trust fund. Sen. Inhofe admitted to being the “father” of the devolutionist movement in Washington that wants to see states wrest more control from Washington on how federal highway money is spent and allocated. He admitted to a complete changed of heart and believes now the federal government’s role is necessary. This has placed him politically at loggerheads with other Republicans who want to eliminate any roll by Washington in funding highways and require states to find their own solutions.
Mr. Pinkerton spoke of the historical context that caused President Eisenhower to sign a bill creating the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.
As a young Army Officer in 1919, it took Eisenhower three months to drive from the east coast to the west coast of the U.S. Eisenhower’s service as Supreme Allied Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War further informed his opinions about developing the interstate highway system as he observed how Germany’s Reichsautobahn was used to move German war materiel with ease throughout the country.
A panel of industry stakeholders led an afternoon discussion how to resolve the issue of future funding for highways. While the current solution du jour – vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax was discussed, it was nearly the unanimous opinion of all present that increasing the federal gasoline and fuel tax was the easiest and most efficient method.
Sen. Inhofe admitted there is little political courage in Washington to increase gas taxes. He said too many politicians on both sides of the aisle are fearful of being targeted as “tax and spenders” by supporting any meaningful solution to the nearly broke highway trust fund. He encouraged all association representatives present to educate their members and take a leading role on this issue by applying political pressure to their respective representatives to find the political will and increase the federal gas/fuel tax.