"Right now, there are so many structurally deficient bridges in America that, if you lined them up end-to-end, they'd stretch from Boston to Miami."

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx (pictured above) has banded together with 11 of his predecessors to issue a stark declaration to the US Congress – our infrastructure is crumbling, and the proposed bill to keep the Highway Trust Fund going until 2015 is simply not a suitable long-term solution.

Saying that the bill "will not 'fix' America's transportation system" and that "America's transportation system [has never] been on a more unsustainable course," Secretaries of Transportation for the past 35 years and seven presidents laid out some truly troubling stats.

In the past five years, Congress has passed a total of 27 short-term funding measures, whereas the norm used to be six-year plans. The country's infrastructure has suffered due to this kick-the-can-down-the-road mentality.

"Right now, there are so many structurally deficient bridges in America that, if you lined them up end-to-end, they'd stretch from Boston to Miami," the letter reads. For those wondering, that's a distance of over 1,250 miles, as the crow flies.

Citing the American Society of Civil Engineers, it's estimated that the US would need to invest $1.8 trillion by the end of this decade to bring roads up to what the ASCE calls "adequate levels." Of course, what constitutes "adequate levels" is open to debate, but it's clear that there needs to be an enormous investment to sort out America's deteriorating highways and byways.

Those troubling stats are simply near-term issues, though. A lack of highway funding and infrastructure repair in the present could be even more troubling in the more distant future. Pointing out that the US population will increase by 100 million come 2050, Foxx and Co., claim that an additional 14 billion tons of freight will need to get from A to B to support that population. Now, how is that going to be possible on derelict infrastructure? Secondary to that, how much more wear and tear will those systems suffer with all the additional freight haulers moving about?

The note ends with the Secretaries of Transportation calling on Congress to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, something we sincerely hope happens:

"Until recently, Congress understood that, as America grows, so must our investments in transportation. And for more than half a century, they voted for that principle – and increased funding – with broad, bipartisan majorities in both houses.

We believe they can, and should, do so again."

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Open Letter from Secretary Foxx and 11 Former DOT Secretaries Urging Congress to Address Long-Term Transportation Needs

WASHINGTON – As Congress considers legislation to avoid a shortfall of the Highway Trust Fund, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and 11 of his predecessors offered the following open letter to Congress. In addition to Secretary Foxx, Secretaries Ray LaHood, Mary Peters, Norman Mineta, Rodney Slater, Federico Peña, Samuel Skinner, Andrew Card, James Burnley, Elizabeth Dole, William Coleman and Alan Boyd all signed the letter. Their message: Congress' work doesn't end with the bill under consideration. Transportation in America still needs a much larger, longer-term investment. The text of the letter is below:

This week, it appears that Congress will act to stave off the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The bill, if passed, should extend surface transportation funding until next May.

We are hopeful that Congress appears willing to avert the immediate crisis. But we want to be clear: This bill will not "fix" America's transportation system. For that, we need a much larger and longer-term investment. On this, all twelve of us agree.

Taken together, we have led the U.S. Department of Transportation for over 35 years. One of us was there on day one, at its founding. We've served seven presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, including Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Suffice it to say, we've been around the block. We probably helped pave it.

So it is with some knowledge and experience that we can write: Never in our nation's history has America's transportation system been on a more unsustainable course.

In recent years, Congress has largely funded transportation in fits and starts. Federal funding bills once sustained our transportation system for up to six years, but over the past five years, Congress has passed 27 short-term measures. Today, we are more than a decade past the last six-year funding measure.

This is no way to run a railroad, fill a pothole, or repair a bridge. In fact, the unpredictability about when, or if, funding will come has caused states to delay or cancel projects altogether.

The result has been an enormous infrastructure deficit – a nationwide backlog of repairing and rebuilding. Right now, there are so many structurally deficient bridges in America that, if you lined them up end-to-end, they'd stretch from Boston to Miami. What's worse, the American people are paying for this inaction in a number of ways.

Bad roads, for example, are costing individual drivers hundreds of dollars a year due to side effects like extra wear-and-tear on their vehicles and time spent in traffic.

Simply put, the United States of America is in a united state of disrepair, a crisis made worse by the fact that, over the next generation, more will be demanded of our transportation system than ever before. By 2050, this country will be home to up to 100 million new people. And we'll have to move 14 billion additional tons of freight, almost twice what we move now.

Without increasing investment in transportation, we won't be able to meet these challenges. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to invest $1.8 trillion by 2020 just to bring our surface transportation infrastructure to an adequate level.

So, what America needs is to break this cycle of governing crisis-to-crisis, only to enact a stopgap measure at the last moment. We need to make a commitment to the American people and the American economy.

There is hope on this front. Some leaders in Washington, including those at the U.S. Department of Transportation, are stepping forward with ideas for paying for our roads, rails, and transit systems for the long-term.

While we – the twelve transportation secretaries – may differ on the details of these proposals, there is one essential goal with which all twelve of us agree: We cannot continue funding our transportation with measures that are short-term and short of the funding we need.

On this, we are of one mind. And Congress should be, too.

Adequately funding our transportation system won't be an easy task for our nation's lawmakers. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Consensus has been brokered before.

Until recently, Congress understood that, as America grows, so must our investments in transportation. And for more than half a century, they voted for that principle – and increased funding – with broad, bipartisan majorities in both houses.

We believe they can, and should, do so again.


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  • 51 Comments
      Finn
      • 9 Months Ago
      In the mid 70's, I was trained in Public Works by WWII Vets. They trained us well, be efficient, use the proper equipment, clean it at the end of the day - you had to sign it out - we had to pass safety training, tool identification and function, etc., etc. Maintain the tax-payer-paid infrastructure - NO EXCUSES. Most had retired by 1980 - I was lucky, I learned how to do things for the betterment of the country. Almost as soon as they left, politicians who never picked up a shovel started throwing excuses left and right, and year by year, everything started to slip away. There is a tremendous amount of corruption in this country from both parties - never mind the lost skills, the lazy attitudes, the excuse making, etc. Where's the money going to come from? Look at how much money we spent in Iraq and Afghanistan - and the 'bank bail-outs', the poor banks get caught with their hands in the cookie-jar and we GAVE them money - that's America now. Come on....who needs an infrastructure?
        knightrider_6
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Finn
        but... but... we need to create democracy in every corner of the world. We will be greeted as liberators and everybody will love us. Maintaining infrastructure in our own country is not as important.
          BodyBlue
          • 9 Months Ago
          @knightrider_6
          Yes, we should just sit on our asses and never do anything and the world will be a much better place. GAG
        Durishin
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Finn
        And, of course, they got rid of the small banks to stunt local economic control and so it would be easier to run a corrupt system.
      cadetgray
      • 9 Months Ago
      Considering we are averaging a military budget of around $640 Billion a year, a lot of the nation's issues could be addressed by scaling back a defense strategy that is rooted in another era. It is interesting to note that we spend more on defense than the next 8 nations combined (this includes, of course, China and Russia). To illustrate these huge costs, to have have a Carrier Strike Group deployed costs $6.5 million per day. We typically have around 5 of these groups out to sea at any given moment. Granted that is not even considering the costs to purchase the vessels and aircraft in the first place. The newest carrier to be delivered will cost about $13 Billion minus the aircraft, equipment, and munitions. If we continue to allow our infrastructure to crumble around us, we will eventually have a nation materially not worth spending a dime to defend. Nations now project power through economics and in that war we are falling behind. Our manufacturing capacity is in a shambles (unless its the defense industry) and our middle class is in decline. In the last 10 years we have had to double the number of non-citizens serving in the military (+65,000) to fill the ranks. When Rome had to defend itself with Visigoths in its Legions it was a precursor to the end of Roman Empire. What were the other signs leading to their collapse? A shrinking middle class and infrastructure in decay. The handwriting is on the wall folks.
        Finn
        • 9 Months Ago
        @cadetgray
        Well written. Indeed, this 'situation' we're in has wound it's way through history to the present day - and we refuse to learn - or at least recognize that it's a fool's path.
      Mike
      • 9 Months Ago
      Of course this will in the end pass. How about they actually build roads that last 30+ years and autobahn type interstates so we can get from A to B quickly? 1.7 trillion should at least buy 100mph roads.
        Required Reading
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Mike
        The existing freeway system was designed for 80mph travel using 1950's technology. I think it can handle 100mph as it is designed.... but the horribly skilled and litigation happy drivers in this country can not.
        Sir Duke
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Mike
        The AutoBahn type interstates you speak of could be built in Florida, Texas and other states that are basically flat. To build that type of system nationally, you would need to level the terrain, this means taking down thousands of mountains and filling in the corresponding valleys. God knows what kind of ecological nightmare would result from such lunacy. The AutoBahn has no grade (incline) that exceeds 6%, no true bends, and it is built to near airport runway specs. Last time I checked, Texas alone was almost double the size of Germany. Germany: 137,846 square miles Texas: 268,820 square miles It's just not feasible, unless you are willing to give up that fine Military machine that's the envy of the world.
      peteMT
      • 9 Months Ago
      1. Let infrastructure begin to crumble 2. Decry the cost to fix it (while providing tax cuts of course!) 3. Sell said infrastructure to private corporations (we can't afford to fix it while providing entitlements! And we can't undo the tax cuts!) 4. Profit. We face a future of GPS tracked, automatically-billed toll roads, owned by multinational corporations with offshore bases to avoid taxes.
        Finn
        • 9 Months Ago
        @peteMT
        Yep. The problem of course, is that the multi-nationals control the books and have little accountability. They build to a 'spec' but is it done properly?
        Larry Litmanen
        • 9 Months Ago
        @peteMT
        If you recall 0bama got 1 trillion to fix roads and bridges when he came into office..................where's that money? Why didn't he fix anything?
          knightrider_6
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          Rick Perry used it to balance his state's budget
      Ken
      • 9 Months Ago
      If the government could prove to me (not likely) that increasing road taxes in some fashion would actually all be used for roads, and used at least decently efficient, I'd be all for it.
        jbm0866
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Ken
        EXACTLY the way I feel. Once taxes are proposed for a certain thing, the money taken in goes in a huge pile to create a theoretical dollar amount which is then divided up however they choose to use it..
        1454
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Ken
        I'm not for any new taxes for any reason whatsoever. The reason for this being that we already give the government 3.5 trillion in tax money. Move some of those funds around to pay for the *needed* infrastructure, it's what those funds were/are for anyway. Roads benefit *everyone*, where giving free money to any Josephinia Schmoe that can spread her legs does not benefit everyone. Stop with entitlements and start with infrastructure spending.
          TruthHertz
          • 9 Months Ago
          @1454
          Those projects cost millions and the entitlements spoken of cost hundreds of billions. Now go back to your hippie stuff.
          quagmire1930
          • 9 Months Ago
          @1454
          Or we could take the money away from horrible defense projects like the POS F-35, the useless LCS ships, hold Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, etc for cost overruns in the F-22, F-35, the Zumwalt Class, and Ford Class, etc. Stop with the useless defense programs and start with infrastructure spending.
        knightrider_6
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Ken
        Nah. We should give that money away as tax cuts for top 1%. It will magically trickle down to fix our roads. 'Murika
        Required Reading
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Ken
        None our elected idiots understand what $17 Trillion in debt means.(We are actually on the line for ~$84 million in spending/debt if you account for the future of the existing programs.) Nothing will be done to curb our lust to outspend our income and eventually we will go bankrupt. We are not far from exponential interest rates that can never be paid back. When this happens they will manipulate the currency or start a new one (which they have done in the past) and everything we have will be worthless. In your elections vote all incumbents out of office, regardless of party.
      Jarda
      • 9 Months Ago
      More and more money missing everywhere.....
      Thunder938
      • 9 Months Ago
      Where is the 1 bil we HAD to pass for "shovel ready projects"? Oh ya they spent a very small % on the "projects" and the rest was a gov. slush fund..ALL BS
      James-Jimbo
      • 9 Months Ago
      How about making the people on welfare or foodstamps doing some of the work needed to improve the infrastructure? One shouldn't get something for nothing. They should at least for work it.
        Quattro_2
        • 9 Months Ago
        @James-Jimbo
        Who do you think are the ones working for companies like McDonalds and Walmart?! Companies who actively encourage them to sign up for state funded social benefit programs while using the very infrastructure and police forces their taxes should be getting spent on.
          Neez
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Quattro_2
          @bodyblue No, huffpost is worse. When you post a comment which signifcantly pokes major holes in the story, or shows a severe lack of research on the writers part. They delete your comments, essentially censoring the truth. It's not about journalism with them, its about readership, which is produced from outrage.
          BodyBlue
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Quattro_2
          If the market thinks that burger flippers should make $15 an hour, then it will pay them that. Amazing how many "Living Wage" herp a derps are on here......but WAIT! AB is owned by Huffpost and it merry band of progressive liars.......so its really not that amazing.
      TonyMitch
      • 9 Months Ago
      Amazing how quick some people here are willing to pay more taxes, when the government already has enough money to fix the roads. We're a bunch of spineless weaklings.
      L1011
      • 9 Months Ago
      What? This is news to me? Obama fixed all this with his "one-time" $800B stimulus to used on "shovel ready" jobs!! Funny how that "one-time" stimulus has conveniently been in every single budget since 2009. Let's see... $800 times 5 years = $3.2T dollars completely wasted. Disgraceful. The fact is the US Government is taking in more money than they EVER HAVE even when you adjust for inflation. The Feds have never had it so good.
      mikee.mike1
      • 9 Months Ago
      The people of Pennsylvania are STILL BEING TAXED for the Johnstown, Pa flood of 1939. We need road and bridge work all over the country BUT when situations like this still exist, WHY GIVE THEM MORE MONEY
      Michael Powers
      • 9 Months Ago
      As long as republicans control congress nothing will be done, they are doing everything they can do to make President Obama look bad at the expense of the American people, which includes our infrastructure and our healthcare system, these things are being sacrificed in the name of huge profits for corporate America.
        Neez
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Michael Powers
        WTF are you talking about??? You've been watching too much liberal media. Republican's don't control congress. Democrats control congress, the have the white house and the senate. Republicans are barely holding on to the house right now. It's 201 democrats to 234 republicans in the house. They literally have only 33 extra votes, so the democrats need to swing 17 republicans to vote for their cause and they can get a bill to pass completely through congress(House, Senate, and President). The current political climate is the democrats intoduce a bill, and don't want republicans to make any changes and simply want them to pass it as it is. Then when they don't approve, they blame everything on the republicans for not passing it. That's how messed up our congress is right now, but it's working the way it was designed to work. The democrats usually finally concede to the recommended changes in order to pass a bill. Usually after bashing republicans in the media during the process.
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