This week is national infrastructure week. We all want better roads and bridges, but fixing our infrastructure isn’t that simple. Our approach must focus on developing and fielding new technologies to revitalize our entire infrastructure system.
Congress’s first priority must be shoring up the Highway Trust Fund. Our crumbling roads are a symptom of an antiquated practice of funding roads through the gas tax. Technological advancements have made it possible to stop taxing at the pump, potentially saving rural taxpayers millions of dollars. Several states are already examining replacing the gas tax with tolling and other user fee collection mechanisms, and we now have an opportunity to examine doing so nationally.
Having already invested millions in developing and implementing positive train control (PTC), railroads are a prime example of how innovative ideas can vastly improve our infrastructure.
Railroads must be given the flexibility to develop and utilize more technologies to increase efficiency and keep up with increasing demand to move freight. Railroads are now examining more options like dynamic scheduling and reduced crew sizes to accommodate innovation. The biggest threat to these ideas would be Congress imposing senseless mandates that hold railroads in the past.
Revitalizing our infrastructure systems is not just vital for the economy, it’s crucial for our safety. The Section 130 Railway-Highway Crossings program has been immensely successful in reducing fatalities and injuries at grade crossings. This success could be expanded upon by eliminating the 50% cap on spending for hazard elimination projects, enabling replacement of certain protective warning devices, and utilizing the prevalence of smartphones to provide navigational warnings for motorists.
We’ve also made great progress on making our highways safer through the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, which ensures trucking companies are allowing their drivers to take proper breaks. While there has been significant pushback from the trucking industry, the problem does not stem from the technology, but rather with the hours of service (HOS) regulations the ELD is meant to record. To that end, last Congress I introduced H.R. 6178 to correct and modernize HOS regulations and ELD usage. The Department of Transportation is currently involved in rulemaking to improve HOS, which I hope will be supported and passed by my colleagues in the House.
We are in the midst of the greatest technological revolution in human history, and we must embrace those changes when it comes to infrastructure. Together, we can build something that’s more than just better infrastructure – we can build a system that will improve our communities, economy, and country.
Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, represents Arkansas’ First Congressional District. The opinions expressed are those of the author.