A strategy to address the nation's infrastructure needs through increased funding and institutional reform, Road to Recovery: Transforming America's Transportation, has been released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Leadership Initiative on Transportation Solvency.
The non-partisan plan was developed by former Senator Bill Bradley, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, and former Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office David Walker -- a Democrat, Republican, and independent, respectively. The authors seek to address the chronic underfunding and disinvestment that has caused American transportation infrastructure, once the best in the world, to sink to 23rd in international rankings.
Currently, the National Highway Trust is insolvent and relies on frequent bailouts by taxpayers to make ends meet. The Carnegie plan advocates restoring transportation spending to a sound financial footing, and returning to a "pay-as-you-go" model in which capital investments are paid for immediately, as opposed to the current practice of "deferred maintenance." The authors refer to deferred maintenance as nothing more than "a hidden tax, with interest," as delaying needed repairs or improvements only raises the total project cost for taxpayers, often relying on borrowing money. The authors point out that consistent majorities of Americans believe we should invest more in our transportation infrastructure, and they lay out a strategy for raising additional revenue to do so immediately, rather than relying on deficit spending.
The centerpiece of the plan is a bold proposal to levy a tax on oil at the point of production or importation, and put a corresponding tax on fuel sold to consumers at the pump. According to the report, this would stabilize the price of oil and protect the American economy from sharp changes in the price of oil, while providing a steady and predictable stream of revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure.