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It’s no surprise that the Highway Trust Fund, or HTF, is almost insolvent again. We’ve known the time is coming.
Last year, we managed to keep it going with the transfer of about $8 billion from the General Trust Fund. But now we’re in trouble again. We’ve been talking about it and writing about it. But the time is here. And the time is now.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recently testified before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the fund is weeks away from being insolvent. This means if Congress doesn’t act, reimbursements to the states for highway and transit construction projects could become a serious problem.
However, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says it is confident that the HTF situation will be resolved — at least for this year — fairly expeditiously because no one in Congress has any desire to delay it.
We’re just finally starting to see some of the stimulus money trickle into the economy for highway and transit projects, getting some of our unemployed professionals in the construction industry back to work.
That’s why the proposal to postpone the reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU, which is set to expire on Sept. 30, is an absolutely ridiculous idea.
I’m not saying you should just jump into it and cobble something together. But Congress has had five years to work on this bill, and the construction industry hasn’t been exactly been rolling over and playing dead during this time.
Since SAFETEA-LU was finally passed–after a record 12 extensions–
major industry players have been working on getting legislation put together for the next generation of the bill.
I’m sure we all wish we could just decide to delay our work for 18 months. But we can’t. Yep, there are times I’d like to put a story on hold for while, but it’s my job to get out information in an accurate and timely manner.
It’s the job of Congress to get the reauthorization passed in a timely and effective manner–and one that will actually meet the needs of our nation. That means the six-year, $450 billion highway and transit investment proposal recently put forward by the bipartisan leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, along with the committee’s recommendation for another $50 billion for high-speed rail, financed outside the Highway Trust Fund.
We shelled out more than that for the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, a.k.a. the stimulus, didn’t we? And that $787 billion for the stimulus was mostly tax cuts and direct payments to the states to shore up their budgets. The majority of the money will be distributed throughout two years, as opposed to the six for the highway bill.
I think it’s high time we took care of our nation’s infrastructure needs–properly!