Michigan congressman calls for an end to Highway Trust Fund patches

Michigan Congressman Sandy Levin, D-Roseville, and 14 other Democrats recently sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan requesting comprehensive, bipartisan hearings with outside stakeholders to find a long-term funding solution for the Highway Trust Fund.

In the letter, members urge short-term extensions must stop. “The 113th Congress ended without a single Ways & Means hearing on transportation funding, and the situation this year is only more urgent. We look forward to working with you to hold comprehensive hearings in June, with a wide range of stakeholders, that fully consider all funding options and aid the Ways and Means Committee in carrying out its responsibility to find a funding source that is stable, dedicated, and substantial enough to fund a full, long-term reauthorization.”

Last month President Barack Obama signed into law the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, extending funding for the Highway Trust Fund for 60 days through the end of July. Congress has patched the Highway Trust Fund numerous times.

Levin told TI News Daily in a written statement that he is open to proposals for a long-term solution, not on a short-term patch.

And Levin isn’t alone. Last week, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, R-Hazelton., said he would vote against any more patches to the Highway Trust fund. “I’m getting off this train,” he said.

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, also signed the letter. He told TI News Daily he would vote no on any patch that extends into the next fiscal year.

Blumenauer offered an amendment that would have prevented the House from taking up any legislation to extend MAP-21 past September 30, except a six-year reauthorization bill with at least current funding levels.

“This pattern of repeated extensions, and funding our infrastructure only months at a time, limits our ability to plan for the future and costs us money today,” he said.

He explained that if Congress extends the program into the next fiscal year, it is nearly certain that lawmakers will be unable to pass a long-term bill before mid-2017.

“We all say we want a long-term bill. My amendment would force Congress to return to regular order and pass the six-year bill America deserves by the end of September.”

Infrastructure repairs across the nation have suffered from a lack of federal highway funding. The 2013 Infrastructure Report Card by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure an overall grade of D-. More than 147,000 bridges, one out of every four in the United States, are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Congestion costs commuters $121 billion in wasted time and fuel, or an average of $818 per commuter.