Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Thursday warned that the Highway Trust Fund is expected to “bounce checks” starting this summer if Congress fails to come up with a funding solution.
At a Chamber of Commerce Transportation Infrastructure Summit in Washington, D.C., Foxx noted that problems with the HTF, which funds the majority of highway projects in the U.S. — could start as soon as August, AASHTO Journal reports.
“The United States faces a massive infrastructure deficit,” Foxx said. “If not addressed, this infrastructure deficit will stunt the recovery we’ve begun and cripple our economy.
“A number of commentators have expressed concern about what happens to transportation spending when the Highway Trust Fund runs out in fiscal year 2015,” he continued. “Little do some of them know that the Highway Trust Fund is on track to bounce checks before fiscal year 2015—as soon as this August.”
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Foxx has previously warned about problems with the HTF. Last month, he said the DOT may have to slow the payments to avoid draining the HTF. Politico notes that the HTF can’t run a negative balance and that Foxx’s mention of bounced checks refers to the slow reimbursements he already discussed.
Those slowed payments equal delayed projects.
On the DOT’s Fast Lane blog, Foxx noted on Friday that the infrastructure deficit has “begun to cripple our economy.”
“I didn’t have to tell the Chamber of Commerce how big our infrastructure deficit is – they’re the ones moving goods around America, and they’re the ones whose employees need efficient ways to get to work,” Foxx wrote. “According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, ‘deficiencies in our nation’s infrastructure will cost businesses more than $1 trillion every year in lost sales,’ and that if we don’t act soon, our economy will take a $3.1 trillion hit before this decade is out.”
During his speech Thursday, Foxx urged Congress to come up with a long-term funding solution, rather than focus on refilling the HTF, according to a report from The Hill.
“For years, our national dialogue has focused on how to get the Highway Trust Fund leveled off,” Foxx said. “To translate that into business terms, we’ve been trying to reach the same level of sales revenue and expenditures as the last year instead of growing revenue and expenditures to meet customer demand.
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“We should stop aiming just to get the Highway Trust Fund level again,” he continued. “We should aim to cut into a bigger piece of our infrastructure deficit by investing more — now.”
Foxx also noted that the gas tax, which was last raised in 1993, is “spinning off less and less revenue.” He hinted that he is open to a gas tax hike but said he wants to see other ideas.
“I would much rather see a national debate about how — rather than whether — we’re going to tackle our infrastructure deficit,” Foxx said.
Foxx urged lawmakers to think outside the box for funding options that will last more than a couple of years, noting that the nation’s economy depends on a thriving transportation system, Reuters reports.
“Congress is going to have to show a little political courage to face this problem,” Foxx said.
Foxx also said it is the responsibility of business leaders to tell Congress to create a better transportation bill, according to AASHTO Journal.
“We need you to speak up. All of you can play a role in putting our transportation system on a more certain and sustainable path,” Foxx said. “Tell Congress no more one-year or two-year band-aids. Tell them what’s at stake for you and your employees and the products you sell. Tell them to get to yes.”