Dear Congress: Let’s avoid another HTF crisis

Traffic on highwayThe Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) is urging Congress to pass a new long-term surface transportation measure as soon as possible. TCC says failing to do so will lead to another self-imposed funding crisis would undermine vital road, highway and transit repairs.

“We worked hard to build broad consensus within a deeply-divided Congress for investing in the nation’s aging roads, bridges and transit systems,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America and the Coalition’s co-chair.  “Members of Congress can either take advantage of that momentum or add transportation funding back to an already-long list of self-created crises threatening our economic vitality.”

In July, Congress extended authorization for the surface transportation program and enacted a temporary funding patch for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).  That patch ensures federal highway, bridge and transit investments will continue through next May.  However, it was the fifth time in the past seven years Congress took a similar approach, requiring nearly $65 billion in supplemental funding to avoid significant cuts to transportation investments.

On average, the HTF provides 52 percent of the funding for highway and bridge capital investments made by the nation’s state transportation departments each year.

[gtblockquote type=”right” quote_text_size=”22″ quote_text_style=”normal” quote_text_color=”#9F0226″]”Congress needs to ‘keep the horse before the cart’ and address the trust fund’s long-term revenue problem.”[/gtblockquote]“Congress needs to ‘keep the horse before the cart’ and address the trust fund’s long-term revenue problem as was done in the 1997 and 2004 tax bills.  Then it can develop and properly fund a six-year program bill early in 2015,” TCC Co-chair Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, says.  “And ‘status-quo’ funding levels would simply perpetuate worsening traffic congestion and the inadequate physical condition of the nation’s highway and transit network.”

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Recent Congressional Budget Office projections indicate Congress will need to come up with an additional $7 billion just to preserve highway and transit funding for the last four months of fiscal year 2015.  Federal data also show maintaining current program funding beyond 2015 will require an average of $16 billion in additional revenues each year.  That’s the revenue equivalent of a 10-cent increase in the federal gas tax.