With Oct. 1 marking the beginning of fiscal year 2015, the 31-member organization Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) urged Congress to find a way to pay for, and pass, a new long-term surface transportation measure as soon as possible. They cautioned that failure to act would lead to another self-imposed funding crisis that would undermine vital road, highway and transit repairs.
“We worked hard to build broad consensus within a deeply-divided Congress for investing in the nation’s aging roads, bridges and transit systems,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America and the Coalition’s co-chair. “Members of Congress can either take advantage of that momentum or add transportation funding back to an already-long list of self-created crises threatening our economic vitality.”
Coalition officials noted that in July, despite overall partisan gridlock, Congress overwhelmingly extended authorization for the surface transportation program and enacted a temporary funding patch for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). That patch ensures federal highway, bridge and transit investments will continue through next May. However, it was the fifth time in the past seven years Congress took that approach, requiring nearly $65 billion in supplemental funding to avoid significant cuts to transportation investments.
On average, the HTF provides 52 percent of the funding for highway and bridge capital investments made by the nation’s state transportation departments each year, Coalition officials added.
“Congress needs to ’keep the horse before the cart’ and address the trust fund’s long-term revenue problem as was done in the 1997 and 2004 tax bills. Then it can develop and properly fund a six-year program bill early in 2015,” TCC Co-chair Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said. “And ’status-quo’ funding levels would simply perpetuate worsening traffic congestion and the inadequate physical condition of the nation’s highway and transit network.”
The latest Congressional Budget Office projections indicate Congress will need to identify an additional $7 billion just to preserve highway and transit funding for the last four months of fiscal year 2015. Federal data also show maintaining current program funding beyond 2015 will require an average of $16 billion in additional revenues each year. That, Coalition officials point out, is the revenue equivalent of a 10-cent increase in the federal gas tax.
Despite widespread desire for a multi-year federal surface transportation program reauthorization bill to boost economic competitiveness and job creation, such legislation cannot move forward until a long-term transportation funding solution is in place. Coalition officials are urging Congress to identify and pass a funding HTF revenue fix to ensure Americans and the U.S. economy continue to benefit from a world class transportation network.