Bills have been introduced into both the House and the Senate to dismantle the federal government’s role in interstate highways and leave that massive responsibility to individual states. Tea Party adherents and other conservatives are applauding this effort. The Interstate Highway System, they argue, was largely completed in the 1980s and local communities should provide their own transportation needs.
The new transportation bill proposed by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Representative Tom Graves (R-Ga.) however, tragically misses the mark when it comes to our national infrastructure needs. Their legislation would abandon the highway trust fund just when our roads and highways are most in need of reconstruction, repair and expansion.
Though many voters are demanding a check on big government, our elected officials need to remember that the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution a federal obligation to build and maintain a national infrastructure. Localizing responsibility for the Interstate Highway System is a complete disconnect from how the world’s largest economy works.
Our interstate highways benefit the entire nation, as well as individual regions and states. For example, the port of Hampton Roads, Virginia, is our nation’s sixth-busiest harbor for all types of goods into and out of the country. From Hampton Roads, I-64 brings commerce to West Virginia and Kentucky. It connects with I-81 to Tennessee and the West, and with I-95 to the entire eastern seaboard. Without this national transportation system, what chance would residents of West Virginia, for example, have to export the $9 billion in trade they now send around the globe?