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Ray LaHood: America is 'one big pothole'

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Transportation,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Budgets and Deficits,AFL-CIO,Chambers of Commerce,Infrastructure

The federal government’s failure to fix and expand the nation’s decrepit roadways, expected to be overflowing this Memorial Day, will result in a highway system so broken that the expected holiday gridlock will be an everyday occurrence within 10 years, according to reports and experts.

“What is Labor Day and Memorial Day traffic now, in 10 years, will be everyday traffic” on routes like the Boston-to-Miami I-95, warned former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, whose Building America's Future group has teamed with the U.S. Travel Association to bring new pressure on the president and Congress to OK a 10-cent gas tax hike and approve the languishing highway bill.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, also part of Building America’s Future, said that lack of infrastructure spending has left roads ravaged by the harsh winter in disrepair as America begins the vacation season. The bad weather, he said, “has created an America that’s one big pothole.” His message: “We need more revenue.”

Rendell cited a new World Economic Forum report showing that the United States is losing the infrastructure improvement race with much of the industrialized world, even Panama. “It's flat-out embarrassing,” he said.

The duo teamed up with the travel industry association's President Roger Dow this week to release a new survey of travel business leaders that found most back higher taxes if the money is dedicated for fixing roads, airports and ports.

The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, found that 70 percent would back taxes, tolls or fees, if assured the money will be spent on infrastructure improvements. Overall, 84 percent would be somewhat willing to support some kind of revenue raiser.

The issue is key since President Obama has made a big deal about getting 100 million overseas visitors to come to the United States. The experts, however, said that the country's airports and roads couldn't handle the extra traffic.

To get lawmakers to OK a tax, toll or fee, Rendell said that several groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the travel industry, are prepared to go to bat to help supporters fend off attacks.

Rendell told Secrets that the Chamber would help Republicans with ads and donations and the AFL-CIO would aid Democrats. His message: “Don’t be afraid. It’s OK.”

Rendell added, “There comes a time when people in elective office have to say, ‘Look, this is such an overwhelmingly important issue for the good of the country or the good of their state, that I’m going to do this. I can’t be scared, we didn’t build this country by being scared and that’s the truth.' ”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.