Ray LaHood considers the new Windsor to Detroit bridge so important he is looking to arrange financing for a portion of the project. LaHood, the first secretary of transportation appointed by US president Barack Obama, has left political life and is now a consultant.
Following a speech on the need to fund infrastructure building and repair, and stressing the need for politicians in Washington to work together on a national level to develop and support a transportation strategy, there was a question period during which LaHood was asked about the border crossings between the United States and Canada.
“The bridge that goes from Windsor to Detroit, it is being paid for almost exclusively by the Canadian government. There is another bridge in that same area that is privately owned, and the fellow that owns it is a billionaire, and he has influenced a lot of politicians to be against the new bridge, which is critically important to our relationship with Canada, critically important to trade with Canada, and critically important to jobs,” he said.
“We worked as much as we could at DOT [Department of Transport] to make that happen. Canadians deserve all the credit. I’m working right now to see if we can find some money to build the Customs facility that is needed. That project will put a lot of people to work from Detroit and from Canada and it will be a great bridge to continue the friendship, but our country needs to do a lot more.”
“The Highway Trust Fund is what built the interstate system it’s what built magnificent bridges and infrastructures and transit systems all over America. And it’s been diminished by people driving less and driving more fuel-efficient cars. The Highway Trust Fund—the gas tax—has not been raised since 1993. Now you can’t think of another salary or tax that hasn’t been raised. This is the lifeblood of infrastructure in America. I’ve heard people talking about vehicle miles travelled and tolling and public private partnerships. That’s all good. But what we need in America is a big pot of money—the same big pot of money that built America. That’s what we need today,” said LaHood.
“I say raise the gas tax 10 cents per gallon. If you want to do it over two or three years, you can do that, but the most important thing it so to index it—index it to the cost of living. If the 1993 gas tax increase had been indexed, we’d have a big pot or money. So raise the gas tax, do 10 cents per gallon. It’s not near enough. But it sends a message America is going to get back into the infrastructure business. America is going to put people back to work. Think of the certainty that would give contractors, to governments, to state DOTs, to companies like Caterpillar that need to sell the equipment that builds the roads and builds the bridges.”