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Trump proposes $1 trillion for roads, wants to cut DOT budget by 13%

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Trump budget offers $1 trillion in road funding, cuts dot discretionary funding $13%
The DOT said with the expiration of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in September, the time to take bold action to address these and other challenges is now. (iStock)

WASHINGTON — The 138-page proposed fiscal year 2021 budget issued by President Donald Trump’s administration on February 10 proposes to reauthorize surface transportation funding to the tune of $810 billion over the next decade, along with an additional one-time payment of $190 billion to support a broad mixture of “infrastructure investments” across a range of industrial sectors.

That would add up to over $1 trillion in direct federal transportation and infrastructure funding between 2021 and 2030 represents a “distinct departure” from the administration’s 2018 outline, which sought to leverage $200 billion of direct federal funding into $1 trillion in overall investment with state/local and private contributions, according to an article in the Journal, the official publication of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

In a related development, published reports said the Trump administration on Monday proposed cutting billions in discretionary spending in next year’s Department of Transportation budget, while also calling for broad increases in spending over the next decade, a disconnect that left some in Congress and outside groups struggling to interpret the administration’s intentions.

As for the infrastructure proposal the DOT said with the expiration of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in September, the time to take bold action to address these and other challenges is now. “Building on the foundation provided in the FAST Act, the administration’s funding proposal would largely grow by almost 4 percent annually through fiscal year [FY] 2030 … that will provide states and other entities with dependable and predictable funding for an entire decade,” the DOT said.

Near term, that translates into an $89 billion budget request for USDOT FY 2021 funding – a nearly 2 percent increase above FY 2020 appropriations, of which $64 billion would come via the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The administration noted, however, that its request for $21.6 billion in discretionary transportation budget authority for FY 2021 is a $3.2 billion or 13 percent decrease from what was enacted for FY 2020.

An analysis of the budget proposal by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials policy staff noted that such fiscal proposals by the White House represent “the traditional first step” in budget negotiations with Congress towards final FY 2021 appropriations measures.

The proposed DOT FY2021 proposed budget cuts discretionary spending by 13 percent, including deep reductions in spending on Amtrak and airport grants. It also cuts more than $2 billion in highway infrastructure funds and more than $500 million in transit grants.

Joel Szabat, the Transportation Department’s acting undersecretary, pointed to the deep shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which covers road and transit projects nationwide.

The fund’s main source of money, the gas tax, has failed to keep up with inflation or national needs.

As it always has been, the argument over whether to raise the gas tax to replenish the fund remains a major sticking point in the discussion about how to fund any infrastructure plan.

Tolls and a vehicle miles traveled tax are other funding options that has been discussed within the circle of transportation stakeholders.

“We estimate that there’s $261 billion in additional Highway Trust Fund cash that’s required to support the administration’s proposal over 10 years,” Szabat said.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Scott

    February 11, 2020 at 10:40 pm

    Really not understanding how they intend to pay for the 13% cut.Wait,heres an idea,why not just try to suck it out of our already empty pockets!What do you mean,,,there’s no more money left to steal off the drivers? All of government,,,All!Are like these ridiculous lawsuits these government backed attorney’s claims!!! Can’t wait till they all drive themselves,ought to be interesting where and who’s gonna foot that bill!

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Stretch of Highway 22 in Oregon closed after tanker crash, diesel spill

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tanker crash on highway 22
Highway 22 between Idanha and Santiam Junction is unlikely to reopen until Friday or Saturday as crews remove contaminated soil in a roadside ditch and rebuild a 600-foot section of roadway, the Oregon Department of Transportation said. (Courtesy: Oregon State Police)

IDANHA, Ore. — A stretch of Highway 22 will be closed for much of this week as crews clean up gasoline and diesel fuel that leaked out of a crashed tanker truck near Idanha along the North Santiam River, state transportation authorities said Monday.

The highway between Idanha and Santiam Junction is unlikely to reopen until Friday or Saturday as crews remove contaminated soil in a roadside ditch and rebuild a 600-foot section of roadway, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

An oil sheen was visible on the North Santiam River downstream of the crash site, but officials said most of the tanker’s oil seeped into the ditch, where it was absorbed by the soil. It’s unclear how much entered the river, the Statesman Journal reported.

The city of Salem said Monday that its drinking water is safe and the oil from the spill has not reached its water treatment plant near Stayton, which is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from the crash. The oil will take several days to reach the plant, the city said, and teams will test the river water at multiple locations this week. Crews have set up absorbent berms to capture the oil on the water.

If any fuel is detected in the river, the city will close the water intake gates as it did in a similar situation three years ago.

The crash on Sunday closed Highway 22 near Detroit and Santiam Junction. The truck was carrying 10,600 gallons of fuel total — 6,500 gallons of gasoline in a tanker trailer and 4,100 gallons of diesel in the truck’s tanker.

About 7,800 gallons of fuel emptied into a roadside ditch and the rest was recovered, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials.

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The Nation

FMCSA final rule lowers annual registration costs for motor carriers

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The reduction of the current 2019 registration year fees range from approximately $3 to $2,712 per entity, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by the affected entities. (iStock Photo)

WASHINGTON — Motor carriers will now see a reduction in the price they must pay to register their vehicles. On February 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a final rule that realigns the fees for the Unified Carrier Registration Plan.

According to the document posted on the federal register last week, this rule establishes reductions in the annual registration fees the states collect from motor carriers, motor private carriers of property, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies for the UCR Plan and Agreement for the registration years beginning in 2020.

“For the 2020 registration year, the fees will be reduced by 14.45% below the 2018 registration fee level to ensure that fee revenues collected do not exceed the statutory maximum, and to account for the excess funds held in the depository,” the document reads. “The fees will remain at the same level for 2021 and subsequent years unless revised in the future.”

The reduction of the current 2019 registration year fees range from approximately $3 to $2,712 per entity, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by the affected entities.

The UCR Plan and the 41 States participating in the UCR Agreement establish and collect fees from motor carriers, motor private carriers of property, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies. The UCR Plan and Agreement are administered by a 15-member board of directors; 14 appointed from the participating states and the industry, plus the Deputy Administrator of FMCSA or another Presidential appointee from the Department, according to the final rule.

Revenues collected are allocated to the participating states and the UCR Plan. If annual revenue collections will exceed the statutory maximum allowed, then the UCR Plan must request adjustments to the fees. In addition, any excess funds held by the UCR Plan after payments are made to the states and for administrative costs are retained in the UCR depository, and fees subsequently charged must be adjusted further to return the excess revenues held in the depository.

Adjustments in the fees are requested by the UCR Plan and approved by FMCSA. These two provisions are the reasons for the two- stage adjustment adopted in this final rule.

“While each motor carrier will realize a reduced burden, fees are considered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A–4, Regulatory Analysis as transfer payments, not costs. Transfer payments are payments from one group to another that do not affect total resources available to society. Therefore, transfers are not considered in the monetization of societal costs and benefits of rulemakings,” according to the document.

The rule states that the total state revenue target is more than $107 million.

For more information or the read the rule in its entirety, visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/rulemaking/2020-01761.

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The Nation

Rhode Island DOT looks to hike trucks-only tolls amid court battle; public input sought

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Rhode island dot wanting to hike rates on trucks-only toll system while court battle continues; public comment sought
A truck passes through one of Rhode Island's six operating toll gantries. (courtesy: Providence Journal)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As the Connecticut legislature prepares to vote this week on Gov. Ned Lamont’s controversial and long-debated “trucks only” toll proposal, a similar system in Rhode Island continues to operate while legal action to overturn the tolls is underway.

The original Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) proposal to charge tolls on trucks only included 14 locations, all bridges RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient. Tolls collected at each bridge would be used to repair and upgrade the specific location.

RIDOT is accepting public comment through March 1 on a plan to increase the toll on a newly installed gantry at the Oxford Street Bridge in Providence, a bridge crossing Interstate 95. The original toll for the bridge was set at $2.25 per trip; however, RIDOT is studying the cost-benefit ratio of doubling the rate to $4.50. RIDOT representatives requesting comment on the proposed increase claim the increase is really no increase at all; it is simply an effort to maintain the revenue forecast from the 14 gantries included in the original tolling proposal.

Currently, Rhode Island has constructed toll gantries at six of the originally planned locations; however, as the program has moved forward, two locations have been temporarily or permanently delayed. Rather than adjusting anticipated total revenue based on 12 locations, Gov. Gina Raimondo has instead directed RIDOT officials to study and request rate hikes at specific bridges. The toll hikes will allow Rhode Island to collect the same $45 million forecast from the 14 original gantries. This new twist on a toll program already challenged as unconstitutional by the American Trucking Associations, and one which an appellate court has ruled Rhode Island must face in a lawsuit, is leading the trucking industry and toll opposition to question RIDOT’s language in press releases and discussions on the issue.

Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, said, “This should serve to reinforce concerns over the unbridled power and discretion given to RIDOT and further feeds the suspicion and skepticism of Rhode Island’s business owners about the end game of this scheme.”

Maxwell’s comments come on the heels of an already approved increased toll rate at another location in Providence. The Route 6 bridge over the Woonasquatucket River was increased from $2.00 to $5.00 last fall.

Maxwell also expressed concern about changing the still new tolls program when original approval was based on environmental impact studies. “From a legal standpoint,” he said, “these ‘on the fly’ changes would seem to undermine and violate the purpose and extent of the environmental impact assessments.”
Other opponents to the Oxford Street bridge toll increase note that the bridge does not fall into the criteria RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient, meaning revenue from the toll would be used at other locations, a provision not included in the tolling plan.

From RIDOT’s perspective, not only is the proposed toll rate increase not really an increase, it is also going to save the state money. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said that the infrastructure costs of eliminating two planned toll locations will result in lower implementation costs.

“Our thinking is we’ll forgo building [a gantry] at the viaduct in Providence, or at least while the viaduct is being built,” Alviti said on WPRO radio. “We’ll assign the toll amount we were going to collect there to the next nearest location, which is Oxford Street.”

Chris Maxwell believes he has a full understanding of RIDOT’s intent. “[They] deliberately chose the most densely traveled tool location in the who scheme to further their insatiable appetite to soak businesses, consumers, and taxpayers,” he said in an interview with Transport Topics.

RIDOT is justifying its proposed action based on the original toll proposal’s expectation of generating $45 million in revenue. In any event, Peter Alviti says, truckers traveling I-95 through Rhode Island will still be paying $20.00 per trip.

When is an increase not an increase? It depends on what your definition of increase is. For those wanting to comment, emails can be sent to Dot.BridgeRepairTolls@dot.ri.gov or comments can be submitted in writing to Jay McGinn, P.E., Project Manager II RIDOT, 2 Capitol Hill, Providence RI 02903. Following cutoff date for comments on March 1, the new rate will be implemented on March 5.

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