Tying the HTF with reauthorization: More of a marriage of convenience than love?

|  July 28, 2009 |

The House introduced a bill Tuesday that would provide $5 billion in emergency funding from the General Fund for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).  This would serve as a temporary "fix" to protect the HTF from insolvency.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee introduced the $5 billion emergency funding bill, according to a NASDAQ report.

The Senate introduced a bill last week that would put nearly $27 billion into the fund, according to the report.

This comes just as Federal Highway Administration head Victor Mendez told state highway officials earlier on Tuesday that unless “we shore up the [Highway] Trust Fund, there will be no other choice to pay the states less frequently for road and bridge repairs,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

Mendez told officials from 38 states and Washington, D.C., that payments–currently made daily–could be delayed to a weekly or twice a month situation, the U.S. DOT noted in a press statement.

Although the funding shortfall–the HTF has been expected to go in the red in just a few weeks–would not  shut down the Federal-Aid Highway Program or prevent states from using federal money for highway projects. But it could affect how fast states are reimbursed, according to the U.S. DOT.

In a media briefing yesterday, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), attended by Better Roads magazine, noted that there is nothing stopping Congress from developing a bill that solves the HTF problem and keeps it solvent.

However, the HTF continues to be tied to the reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU, which is in an 18-month delay.

Tying the two together seems “to ber more of a marriage of convenience than of love,” ARTBA top officials said during the call. “The HTF doesn’t have to be married to SAFETEA-LU.”

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