As deadline looms for Highway Trust Fund, TRIP says infrastructure continues to worsen

The need for transportation improvements far surpasses the amount of federal and state funding available, according to TRIP, a national transportation research group.

In its most recent report for April, TRIP said 18 percent of the nation’s major roads and highways had pavements in poor condition, 40 percent were in mediocre or fair condition and 42 percent were in good condition.

“These percentages remain unchanged since 2012,” said Rocky Moretti, TRIP’s director of policy and research, in an emailed statement to TI News Daily.

Authorization for federal surface transportation programs is due to expire May 31, and the Highway Trust Fund is expected to become insolvent in August if Congress fails to replenish it.

States and municipalities need those funding dollars. States and local governments count on as much as 50 percent of their road, bridge and infrastructure dollars from the federal government.

In 2013, state and local governments spent $102 billion on road, highway and bridge capital improvements, which include repairs and improvements on existing and new facilities, the report stated.

“The federal government provided $41 billion in 2013 to state and local governments for road, highway and bridge repairs and improvements,” Moretti said.

Adding to the problem, Moretti said, vehicle travel has increased 39 percent from 1990 to 2013, largely because of population and economic growth.

The report stated that in 2014, 10 percent of the nation’s bridges were rated structurally deficient and 14 percent were rated as functionally obsolete. Last year, 3,327 of the nation’s bridges were closed.
Rep. Jim Renacci (OH-16) recently proposed HR 1846, the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act, offering a long-term solution to the beleaguered Highway Trust Fund.

The act, if passed, would index gas and diesel user fees to inflation. Additionally, the legislation calls for the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral transportation commission. This group would be charged with determining a path forward for sustainable funding, and would be advised to consider all options.

Officials from state and local governments and transportation groups have said they fear Congress will again transfer monies from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund in a short-term fix that has been done for approximately the past eight years.