While Congress is debating the president’s six-year, $478 billion transportation plan to fund the Highway Trust Fund prior to its May 31 deadline, transportation watchdog groups say a long-term solution is necessary.
If legislation isn’t passed by May 31, the authority to spend from the fund will stop. That, in turn, would create a financial crisis by July and the program could go bankrupt by September, according to Dave Bauer, senior vice president for government relations for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
But Bauer said he doubts it will go that far. “This is the sixth time in eight years Congress has been in this position,” he said.
Bauer said ARTBA, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C., supports the administration’s dedication to grow the investment but added, “there are many on Capitol Hill focused on existing levels of investment, that means traffic congestion gets worse and no new jobs are created. There is no information out there that says we are meeting transportation demands, we need to invest more.”
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation says 61,000 bridges in the nation are in need of structural repair, and according to data from the Federal Highway Administration, of 892,163 miles of major highways that are eligible for federal aid, 20 percent are in poor or mediocre condition and 15 percent of highways in rural areas are in poor or mediocre condition. In urban areas, 32 percent of highways need repairs. The nation’s interstate highways are in relatively good condition, figures demonstrated, with only 1.8 percent of rural miles and 5 percent of urban miles in poor or mediocre repair.
There is no information available on the condition of the 3.2 million miles of local roads and rural minor connectors that are not eligible for federal aid.
ARTBA introduced its proposal for a long-term solution to funding transportation projects called “Getting Beyond Gridlock” last month. The plan suggests a “user pays” concept that would add a 15 cents per gallon federal gasoline and diesel user fee increase that would generate $159 billion in revenue over six years. To avoid political backlash that typically comes with tax increases, the plan also suggests a federal tax rebate that could be tied into a taxpayer’s gross adjusted income.