It’s easy to be pessimistic if you’re in the road building industry these days. The U.S. DOT says as early as July, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is filled by revenue collected through the 18.4-cent per gallon federal gas tax, will reach a critically low level. This would immediately slow down reimbursements to states for highway and transportation projects.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected the HTF will go bankrupt in the fall without additional congressional action. The budget office and infrastructure advocates have said that lawmakers will have to approve an additional $100 billion to provide enough money to fund a six-year transportation bill, in addition to the $34 billion brought in annually by the gas tax.
Add the HTF crisis to the fact that lawmakers are also facing a September 30 deadline for renewing the federal highway bill, and anxiety over whether there will be any federal money for road building projects in the future can skyrocket.
Without the HTF, there will be zero spending on highway and public transportation projects. Lawmakers will have to address the HTF in the next highway reauthorization, but their track record in recent years has been dismal.
One way or another, something HAS to happen. This is the fifth time since 2008 that we have been in this situation, and each time, Congress has stepped up to the plate and preserved funding. There is no indication this time around that they won’t act in the same manner.
In April, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) and other committee leaders reached agreement on an outline for the highway-policy portion of the upcoming surface transportation bill. Boxer said the lawmakers want a long-term measure, which could be as long as six years. That’s definitely a silver lining.
Instead of worrying about what could happen, use this critical time leading to the reauthorization deadline to remind your representatives and senators how important federal highway and transportation investment is to your state. Let them know how the uncertainty around the funding issue impacts your business and your daily life.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA.org) has some great calls to action and how to get involved with federal funding issues. When it comes to federal funding, we have to do more than think positively – you have to get involved.