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.
The Highway Trust Fund is currently facing a funding crisis. If Congress fails to generate new revenue for the trust fund by July 31, the U.S. Department of Transportation will be forced to slow reimbursements to state Department’s of Transportation in August for federal-aid highway projects already under construction. The continued uncertainty over long-term funding has resulted in 7 states delaying or canceling $1.63 billion worth of projects. Several states have indicated that further project delays or cancellations may occur if Congress fails to provide additional revenue into the Highway Trust Fund
Current investment by all levels of government – federal, state, and local – is $91.1 billion annually despite the Department of Transportation’s Conditions and Performance report estimating that $101 billion, plus increases for inflation, will be needed annually for 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. Eighteen billion dollars in annual investment is necessary to maintain a state of good repair though current investment levels top out at $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 in 2015. The simplest and most efficient way to achieve this goal is by increasing the gas tax. If Congress cannot increase the gas tax, they need to pinpoint a way to increase funding to make up for the 80 percent loss in buying power since the last gas tax increase 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.
At the expiration of the current extension of highway and transit programs on July 31, 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) giving multi-year certainty to allow state departments of transportation the ability to make long- term transportation plans, giving contractors the confidence to hire necessary, additional workers and buy equipment.