DOT Secretary: 'The Roads You're Driving On Will Crumble...'

By Susan Jones | May 13, 2014 | 5:31am EDT

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx ( Starr)

( - "This may be the most dire moment the American transportation system has faced in decades," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters at the White House on Monday.

"Unless Congress acts, up to 700,000 Americans will lose their jobs over the next year," he said. Road work, bridge-building and transit maintenance projects "may be delayed or shut down completely," slowing trade and causing businesses not to hire.

"And by the way, your morning commute will be longer because the roads you're driving on will crumble, and no one will show up to fix it," Foxx said.

The dire scenario results partly from the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, a problem that's been years in the making.  

The trust fund -- which depends on gasoline taxes -- is projected to run out of money by August, partly because people are driving more fuel-efficient cars, which means less tax money coming in.

To solve the nation's "infrastructure deficit," Foxx said the nation needs to spend $3.6 trillion by the end of the decade.

"So what we need right now is to rally around a set of ideas that increase annual investment," he said. (In Washington, "investment" means spending.)

Foxx was plugging the Obama administration's "Grow America Act," a four-year, $302-billion funding bill that would refill the Highway Trust Fund and "substantially increase annual funding" for transit projects.

The administration is recommending "pro-growth business tax reform" to raise $150 billion. Asked if the new taxes would fall mainly on transportation businesses, Foxx said, "it actually could be broader than that."

He talked about "taking some of the untaxed earnings that are overseas and plowing some of that into infrastructure." The bill also includes a provision that would allow state governors to apply to the federal government for the right to place tolls on interstate highways.

Foxx urged Congress to take the legislation "seriously."

"America is hungry and starving for more infrastructure investment, and we have a responsibility to articulate that as an agency because America is growing, whether we're investing or not.

We're going to have a hundred-million more people in this country by 2050, FOxx said -- plus 14 billion additional tons of freight moving within the U.S. "And that long commute that folks had this morning is going to get longer if we don't start doing something right now."

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