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ARTBA Comments Regarding Docket No: NHTSA-2014-0074


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ARTBA Comments Regarding Docket No: NHTSA-2014-0074

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ARTBA Comments Regarding Docket No: NHTSA-2014-0074

  1. 1. August 6, 2014 Docket Management Facility, M-30 U.S. Department of Transportation West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE Washington, DC 20590 Re: Docket No: NHTSA-2014-0074, Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for New Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Improvement Program Standards On behalf of the 6,000 members of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), I respectfully offer comments on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for New Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Improvement Program Standards. ARTBA’s membership includes private and public sector members that are involved in the planning, designing, construction and maintenance of the nation’s roadways, waterways, bridges, ports, airports, rail and transit systems. Our industry generates more than $380 billion annually in U.S. economic activity and sustains more than 3.3 million American jobs. In December of 2007, NHTSA began the process of promulgating new fuel economy standards for commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicles and work trucks. As part of this process, NHTSA must conduct and environmental impact statement (EIS) as part of its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The purpose of the EIS is to consider the “direct, indirect and cumulative impacts” of NHTSA’s proposed fuel economy standards. ARTBA encourages efforts to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. As part of a comprehensive EIS, NHTSA should acknowledge and attempt to mitigate the adverse effects the proposed standards would have on other areas of federal responsibility. ARTBA is particularly concerned with the potential effect of NHTSA’s proposed rule on revenues generated by motor fuels taxes for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF was created in 1956 as an investment construct by which users of the national highway infrastructure are charged a direct user fee to maintain and improve the system on which they rely. Currently, 18.3 cents are directed to the federal HTF from each gallon of gasoline purchased and federal highway investment accounts for 52 percent of the national capital investment in highway and bridge construction. Unfortunately, policymakers in the legislative and executive branches have not increased the per gallon rate of the federal motor fuels user fee since 1993 and as a result the revenues flowing into the HTF and their corresponding purchasing power has fallen further behind the documented needs of the nation’s surface transportation system. This problem affects the amount of funding that all 50 states receive from the federal government to build and maintain their transportation infrastructure
  2. 2. 2 With a long-term reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program currently being discussed by Congress and the administration, it is important to consider the impacts NHTSA’s fuel economy standards will have on future transportation investment. As fuel efficiency increases and innovations in automotive technologies progress, revenues into the HTF will be diluted. We commend the Obama Administration for proposing a robust, multi-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal. As the Administration clearly understands, efforts to advance any long- term transportation bill are contingent on stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund. Unfortunately, relying on a one-time infusion of revenues not based on system use as the Administration has proposed is unsustainable and would recreate the current HTF crisis once those resources are utilized. Proposals to increase fuel efficiency without compensating the Highway Trust Fund for accompanying revenue loss would simply exacerbate the trust fund’s current structural revenue deficit and erect an even bigger obstacle to the Administration’s transportation infrastructure goals. In 2012, ARTBA submitted comments to NHTSA and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noting the revenue loss from NHTSA’s proposed fuel economy standards would exceed $70 billion over 15 years. As part of its EIS, NHTSA should consider how such a loss of federal highway funds can have would impact both employment and development for impacted counties where transportation improvements could be delayed or cancelled. Further, once completed, transportation improvements can reduce congestion and improve air quality. Such improvements will not be realized if projects cannot go forward. A complete EIS should include the effects of the potential for both increased unemployment and reduced congestion relief which could result from a loss of federal revenue for transportation investment. ARTBA encourages the development and use of more energy efficient vehicles. Positive developments in reducing the motor fuel usage do not have to be inconsistent with the goal of meeting the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. NHTSA’s current proposal, however, should be expanded to ensure it does not dilute existing or future federal HTF revenues. This adjustment could include an increase in the federal motor fuels tax or some other method of generating federal revenues that will accurately capture the benefit received by users of the system and protect against the effects of inflation, increases in construction costs, and advances in fuel efficiency. ARTBA appreciates the chance to offer these comments and looks forward to working with NHTSA to continue to improve emissions and fuel efficiency while also meeting the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. Sincerely, T. Peter Ruane President & C.E.O.