The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, signed by President Obama in 2015, sunsets in October at the end of the 2020 fiscal year.
This makes passage of a new infrastructure funding bill imperative, officials said. But it is unclear whether the divided Congress can decide on a funding package, let alone on what that package might contain.
Currently, there are two proposals for infrastructure reauthorization before Congress, according to the Littlefields.
The first is to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund at the current rate of taxation. The second, America's Infrastructure Act of 2019, seeks to address all U.S. infrastructure—not only roads and bridges but also hospitals, schools and electric grids.
The total cost of the plan, they said, could be as high as $15 trillion to $25 trillion, with money allocated to key congressional constituents. "It's kind of like socialized medicine," Littlefield III said.
The biggest problem with America's Infrastructure Act is that it would almost certainly require highway users to pay a wildly disproportionate share of the cost, they said.
One funding proposal would have the federal government turn over 47,000 miles of interstate highways to the states, they said. In previous such cases, states usually have leased those roads to private corporations for 99 years.
To date there are about 800 privatized roads and 200 privatized bridges in the U.S., according to Littlefield III. The privatized bridges alone, he said, have tolls ranging from $14 to $20.
"If more roads are privatized, two things are sure to happen: Tolls will go up, and maintenance will go down," he said.
Other proposals, according to Littlefield III, include raising the fuel tax by up to $1 per gallon and re-establishing the federal excise tax on passenger tires and tread rubber.
"The highway community will be hit hard." "This is going to be such a burden on truckers," he said. "And in turn this will be a burden on consumers, because all our goods move by truck."
The USTMA, according to Luke, is looking at the infrastructure question from a different angle: sustainability.
"We're looking for ways to make tires better, and to work with our partners to make highways better," she said. "We want to learn how to support the next generation of sustainable infrastructure."
With the FAST Act up for reauthorization, Luke said the USTMA has an opportunity to meet with its legislative champions "to look ahead on how to use infrastructure policy to pursue sustainability goals."