Highway Trust Fund Update
Congress sends Bush bill restoring highway funds
President Bush is expected to sign legislation infusing $8 billion into the financially teetering fund that supports road and bridge projects around the country, according to a report by the Associated Press.
The Bush administration acknowledged that the trust fund, which derives its revenues from the federal gas tax, was going broke much faster than anticipated and that Washington would have to begin delaying payments to states for construction work.
The House voted 376-29 on the measure to transfer $8 billion from the Treasury’s general fund to shore up the 52-year-old highway trust fund. The Senate approved the measure by a voice vote after several Republicans who had held up the legislation for months agreed to let it go forward.
The breakthrough in the Senate came after Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced that the trust fund, which enjoyed a $10-billion surplus just three years ago, would run out of money in September. She urged quick action by Congress to restore solvency to the fund.
In July, after the House first passed the $8-billion replenishment effort, the White House threatened a veto, saying taking money from the general fund was “both a gimmick and a dangerous precedent that shifts costs from users to taxpayers at large.”
Supporters of the transfer argued that the Treasury was merely returning $8 billion it took from the then-prospering trust fund in 1998 for deficit reduction.
It has long been anticipated that the trust fund would move into the red next year, a result of the reluctance of Congress to raise the gasoline tax, unchanged since 1993 despite inflation and soaring construction costs. The federal fuel tax is 18.4 cents a gallon, or 24.3 cents for diesel.
But the fund has recently had a rapid change in fiscal fortune as drivers, responding to higher prices, have curtailed their driving and switched to more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive director of the Associated General Contractors (AGC), expressed relief that Congress had finally acted. “We knew this shortfall was coming and we have made this a priority for the last two years,” he said. “The money was set to run out, states were going to be left holding the bag and contractors would have been forced to lay people off.”
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), using Transportation Department figures, said that without the fix federal highway aid to the states would drop from $35 billion in the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30 to $24 billion in the next fiscal year 2009. It estimated that 379,000 jobs would be lost without congressional action.
Pavement test track conference
NCAT hosts event
The National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University (NCAT) will host the third Pavement Test Track Conference on Feb. 9-11, 2009, at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National. The two-day meeting will highlight research findings from NCAT’s 1.7-mile test track.
Participants will have a chance to tour the track, hear researchers and Department of Transportation (DOT) engineers discuss their latest results and observe how they are being put into practice.
Event registration will open in November 2008 online at www.ncat.us.
Traffic management/work zone safety conference now include
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) will host its 2009 “National Traffic Management and Work Zone Safety Conference” in conjunction with the 2009 World of Asphalt Show & Conference, March 9-12 in Orlando, Florida.
The announcement comes following an agreement between ARTBA-TDF and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), which are World of Asphalt co-owners.