The Highway Trust Fund was established in 1956 as the method for paying for the construction of the Interstate Highway System. The primary source of revenue comes from the gas tax, which was last increased in 1993.
Since 2008, the Highway Trust Fund has required nearly $62 billion in transfers from the federal government’s general fund in order to meet its obligations. On August 8, 2014 President Obama signed into law the latest trust fund bailout and transportation authorization extension.
Federal highway and transit programs are now funded and authorized through May 2015 – when the Highway Trust Fund will be facing another funding crisis if Congress fails to provide additional revenue for the trust fund.
This current extension simply maintains funding for highway and transit investments at current levels. The fact is investment levels need to be increased. Current investment by all levels of government – federal state and local – is $91.1 billion annually. The Department of Transportation’s Conditions and Performance report estimates that $101 billion, plus increases for inflation, would be needed annually over the next 20 years from all levels of government just to maintain the highway system in its current state. The same report estimates that $170.1 billion would be required to improve conditions. For transit, this report estimates that to maintain a state of good repair, an annual investment of $18 billion is necessary; however, the current investment level is $16.1 billion.
Hardhats for Highways Message:
Increase Transportation Investment: Congress needs to work in a bipartisan, bicameral way to enact a long-term sustainable revenue source for the Highway Trust Fund this year. The simplest and most efficient way to achieve this goal is by retaining the gas tax and increasing it. If Congress cannot increase the gas tax, they need to identify a way to increase funding to make up for the 80 percent loss in buying power since the gas tax was last increased in 1993. Congress should consider a fee based on vehicle miles traveled, a sales tax on fuel sales, wholesale motor fuel fee, oil exploration fees, fees on natural gas used for transportation and others. The goal should be fully covering the cost of the transportation system that our country needs without deficit financing.
Multiyear Authorization: At the expiration of the current extension of MAP-21, a long-term transportation reauthorization measure needs to be in place. States need to know that they will have the revenue needed to continue the highway, bridge and transit construction that they have planned. Congress must return to long-term transportation authorizations (five- or six-years are typical and necessary). This multiyear certainty will allow state departments of transportation the ability to make long-term transportation plans and give contractors the confidence to hire additional workers and buy equipment