Congressman: Gas-tax bill a long-term fix for Highway Trust Fund

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), co-sponsor of the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act, said recently that Congress needs to stop kicking the can down the road and find a long-term solution to the country’s ailing Highway Trust Fund. 

“My family was in the construction business, and that gives me a unique perspective. I understand the need for a long-term (funding) solution. This bill forces Congress to act and find a way to pay for it,” Barletta said in a phone interview with TI News Daily.

The Highway Trust Fund is set to be depleted by the end of May unless Congress acts to replenish it. The gas and diesel taxes that fund the Highway Trust Fund have not been adjusted for more than 20 years and are not indexed for inflation.

The legislation Barletta supports, HR 1846, was introduced by Reps. Jim Renacci (R-OH), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL). If passed, it would index gas and diesel taxes to inflation. 

Additionally, the legislation calls for the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral Transportation Commission to fix the Highway Trust Fund and provide 10 years of investment in roads and bridges.

Barletta said he’d be willing to be a member of that commission. 

Industry watchers have said the nation’s road, bridge, transit and infrastructure systems merit a “D” grade, and Barletta said he’d give his district the same grade as well.

“And there are parts of our district that are even worse,” Barletta said. “Twenty-two percent of our roads are in poor condition, not to mention 43 percent of our bridges are obsolete or structurally deficient.” 

Passage of the legislation would mean good things for Barletta’s district, he said. “Long-term funding means townships can actually plan projects,” Barletta said. “It has been projected there will be a 50 percent increase in freight travel on our roads between now and 2040.” 

It is doubly important that the Commonwealth maintain its infrastructure because it has several ports. “If we allow our infrastructure to crumble, we’ll lose our global competitiveness for not being able to ship goods efficiently and competitively.” 

Barletta also argues that construction stimulates job growth. “There’s nothing better than putting people back to work than through construction. That money goes right back into our local economy,” Barletta said. But construction companies are not going to invest $500,000 on a piece of construction equipment when the Highway Trust Fund is only funded for a few months, Barletta said.

If the legislation fails, and the federal government moves money from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund as it has done in the past, Barletta said several projects would be delayed or pared because 40 percent of road projects are funded by federal dollars. 

“Most of my district would be negatively impacted,” Barletta said.

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U.S. Representative Lou Barletta (PA-11)

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