Highways Need a Funding Fix

An important deadline affecting the continued funding of maintaining our nation’s roadways looms just around the corner. The US House of Representatives faces an October 29, 2015, deadline to pass a multi-year bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) or the program will shut down. The Highway Trust Fund was set up in 1956 to pay for building and maintaining the nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems. Today, the fund acts as a national bank account, reimbursing states for improvement projects upon completion. That bank account is running on empty and has been for years, as our political leaders struggle to find a long-term funding solution.

Current state: Currently, an 18.4 cent-a-gallon gasoline tax and a 24.4-cent-a-gallon diesel tax funds the Highway Trust Fund. This tax has not increased since 1993, and its revenues have not kept pace with our infrastructure needs. While the price of household goods, such as bread, milk, or a new car, have nearly doubled in price, we continue to use a 22-year-old tax to fund road repairs. That tax has lost its buying power, and even worse, less of it is being collected because more fuel-efficient cars are on the road using less gasoline to be taxed.

We see the effects of crumbling road and bridges on our daily commutes and in the national headlines. The “2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” released by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), contained some unsettling facts. Among them:

  • Forty-two percent of America’s urban highways are congested, resulting in a report card grade of “D.”
  • One in nine of the nation’s bridges are “structurally deficient.” This means they are restricted to light vehicle traffic, closed to traffic, or require rehabilitation.
  • Forty-eight percent of American households lack access to transit.

An even more alarming statistic comes from the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (214-2015). It ranks the quality of US road infrastructure as 16th in the world.

What’s ahead: In July, the US Senate passed the DRIVE Act, a bill providing six years of funding certainty to maintain and improve our roads and bridges. The US House of Representatives is now on the clock for a funding solution by the October 29 deadline. Chances are, a long-term solution will remain elusive. Congress has passed 34 short-term extensions to fund HTF since 2009. Perhaps this year will be different as more and more road failures gain public attention. Please consider writing your members of Congress urging them to pass a multi-year transportation bill by the October 29 deadline. We can’t afford another short-term solution to address a long-term need.

For your consideration: American Structurepoint Vice President Steve Davidson, PE, has written a white paper proposing using interstate tolls to fund much-needed road repairs. I invite you to read “Built to Last: Funding “Our Nation’s Highways.” His solution presents an alternative and fair way for all users to pay for maintaining the transportation network that drives the American economy.

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