Alexander Questions Transportation Official on Traffic Efficiency Study
"We should rate states top to bottom, 1 to 50, on their efficiency in using existing highways, publish the results and make the ratings an issue in governors' races"- Lamar Alexander
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said today that the U.S. Department of Transportation should establish a highway efficiency standard that ranks the states according to who has the most efficient highways.
"The National Transportation Safety Board says that states could cut traffic jams in half if they did a more efficient job of using existing highways," said Alexander at a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) hearing this morning. "We already have a fuel efficiency standard for cars, so why can't we have a highway efficiency standard for states?"
At the hearing, Alexander questioned U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters about the status of a report Alexander requested from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) analyzing how to identify and measure highway efficiency.
Alexander also said he would introduce legislation in the U.S. Senate to establish a nationwide highway efficiency standard rating system.
"We should rate states top to bottom, 1 to 50, on their efficiency in using existing highways, publish the results and make the ratings an issue in governors' races," Alexander said. "I wouldn't want to be the governor running for reelection with the 50th most efficient highway system."
Alexander made his comment this morning as the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) considered a report issued by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission that evaluated the nation's surface transportation needs for the next 25 years.
Alexander said that there are obvious ways to make better use of the highway taxes now collected:
Allow states to use federal highways funds to pay contractors for roads and bridges after they are already built. Alexander said that could cut in half the amount of time to complete transportation projects.
Put Congress on a two-year budget and appropriation cycle - instead of the existing process of approving a budget and making appropriations every year - so states can plan ahead. "States waste untold billions waiting for the Congress to make up its mind each year about the dollars we will appropriate," Alexander said.
Use gas taxes only for highway transportation projects and prohibit those funds from being used for other budget purposes.