The stakes just got raised even while it seems we are no closer to a funding fix. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced plans for slowing reimbursements to states from the traditional twice a day method to every other week, starting on August 1 due to the low balance in the Fund. The U.S. Department of Transportation cites on average that states will see a 28 percent drop in federal transportation dollars due to delayed payments. This piecemeal approach to funding federal highway projects may put many current projects on hold, slow down the advertisement of new projects, or even cancel proposed projects.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a meeting last week to approve a necessary fix to the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) crisis, but it quickly devolved into an ideological tussle over two things: taxes and spending. The only thing that became clearer after the committee meeting was how far apart Democrats and Republicans are in their preferred solution to the ailing federal transportation program.
Solutions spanned a list of items ranging from those that wanted to add more money for transportation, like raising the gas tax and establishing an infrastructure finance authority, to those that wanted to change parts of the current program, like eliminating bicycle infrastructure and allowing states to opt-out of the federal program. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have pledged to try and navigate this divide and work together in order to reach agreement when Congress returns on July 7. The two sides could agree on less controversial ideas like changes regarding mortgage reporting and pension plans, and efforts to generate funds from those who owe federal taxes, and stave-off a fiscal crisis this year.
ASCE is urging the public to visit FixTheTrustFund.org and tell members of Congress to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund and prevent a shutdown of federal highway and public transportation investments across the country.