With July wrapping up, the House throwing in the towel and settling for another three-month extension as the Senate passing the DRIVE Act, hopes for a long-term highway funding solution are pushed back again.
Before heading home for August recess the House and Senate passed another short-term patch that will provide $8 billion of funding to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat a bit long, with program authorization set to expire on October 29th. Meanwhile, the Senate approved the DRIVE Act, a six-year surface transportation bill. It is the first long-term bill in a long time, which gives the transportation community something to celebrate. However, the DRIVE Act does not fully meet the investment needs of our nation’s aging infrastructure.
With a bill now passed by the upper chamber, it’s up to the House to make this most recent short-term extension the last, and there are plenty of reasons to get it done. Among them, we are losing time and money because of the poor condition of our transportation network and it’s a drag on the economy.
Years of cutbacks in federal funding and the uncertainty of long-term funding because of the frequency of short-term patches are hindering states ability to make transportation improvements. States including Iowa, Ohio and others are struggling to fund much-needed construction projects because of the lack of certainty for a federal program. Several states have taken measures to provide for their own transportation funding needs, including Washington, which just increased its gas tax by seven cents, South Dakota, Oregon, North Carolina and West Virginia, but the states cannot go it alone.
Federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund would not only serve to improve much-needed infrastructure investments, but would pave the way for more innovative infrastructure, as featured in ASCE’s #GameChangers report. Therefore it is essential that Congress work diligently in the next three months to find a long-term funding solution.
“In the next three months, ASCE urges the House and Senate to work through their policy differences and continue the legacy of the Highway Trust Fund,” said Tom Smith, ASCE’s executive director. “This short-term extension needs to be the last and we believe it can be, so long as Congress moves the nation forward by working together in a bipartisan way to finish their work on improving America’s surface transportation infrastructure.”