Lucas County commissioner Pete Gerkin, left, and Sen. Sherrod Brown hop over a highway barrier on their way to a press conference at the Anthony Wayne Bridge in Toledo.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) visited a Toledo construction site today to call for a comprehensive review of how federal transportation programs are paid for while blaming Republicans for underfunding that has resulted in decay for the nation‘s public infrastructure for three decades.
“Too often, Congress has stumbled along with six-month extensions,” Mr. Brown said during a news conference at the downtown end of the Anthony Wayne Bridge, which has been closed since March for a $28.7-million heavy renovation project. “We need a six-year transportation bill.”
The current federal transportation program expires Sept. 30, and the senator said the Highway Trust Fund will be exhausted before then, with federal funds to Ohio likely to drop 30 percent in August if nothing is done.
While that won’t affect the Anthony Wayne project, it could disrupt other vital construction in the Toledo area, including I-75 reconstruction through downtown Toledo and the McCord Road underpass in Holland, said Warren Henry, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments‘ director of transportation. Contractors on projects that do continue could be affected by slower processing of payments due, he added.
Also speaking were Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley and Carly Allen, business manager for Amalgamated Transit Union 697, which represents Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority employees and noted that federal-funding gridlock could harm public transportation as well as highway projects.
Mr. Brown said he supports allowing states to expand tolling on existing highways and that a 12-cent increase in the federal motor-fuels tax, which has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, that other senators have proposed this week is “part of what we need to do in the long-term bill.”
He also called on Congress to close “tax loopholes” as a first step, notably those that benefit oil companies, allow corporations to deduct moving expenses when they shift domestic operations overseas, or enable “Wall Street hedge-fund managers” to pay significantly lower taxes than factory workers.
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