Despite another action-packed week on the Hill, a long-term, sustainable funding solution for our nation’s transportation network still is not final. While the House voted for a short-term extension until December, there’s still hope that the Senate’s multi-year bill, the DRIVE Act, will prevail before the July 31 deadline.
The House passed an $8.1 billion plan to fund the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) through December 18 by dedicating airport security fees and adjusting tax rules to keep the program solvent. While a short-term funding patch is better than shutting down the program and canceling projects, the House proposal is far short of the ideal: a well-funded, six-year highway and transit bill. Furthermore, the December punt would restart the countdown clock towards finding a long-term solution and extend construction uncertainty for five more months.
The Senate will move towards debate on its six-year plan, the DRIVE Act, on Tuesday, July 21. Should that vote succeed, Senate leaders will then quickly work to compile the remaining policy pieces necessary to form a comprehensive six-year road, bridge and transit bill before the July 31 legislative deadline. In recent days, senators have stated publicly that they are not optimistic about being able to fully fund the six-year DRIVE Act by July 31, but they have indicated they will try and generate as much funding as possible to get the maximum length while still growing the program.
In a roundtable discussion with reporters on Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that, “All the politics have all shaped around getting back to baseline funding, as if baseline funding is going to solve our problems. Meanwhile, the public is seeing conditions get worse and worse and worse, and so they’re wondering, ‘Why am I paying into this system and it’s getting worse?’” ASCE’s Failure to Act Transportation Study supports this claim.
While Congress is attempting to agree on the right funding solution, states are paying the price for Washington’s lack of action. On Tuesday, The USDOT notified states that federal funding for state transportation projects will run critically low starting sometime in August. USDOT also announced road and bridge conditions in each state, utilizing ASCE data to make the case for investment.
States like Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Mississippi, Oklahoma and others are beginning to realize how lack of federal funding and certainty affects their state’s infrastructure needs. Without a long-term funding solution, state infrastructure projects will continue to be negatively impacted.
With only two weeks left before the deadline to reauthorize the federal surface transportation program, it is more critical than ever before that Congress act quickly to pass a multi-year bill with a long-term funding solution before July 31. Write a letter, call your Senators’ and Representatives’ offices, and tweet using #FixTheTrustFund to remind your representation in Washington that they have a job to do and a deadline fast approaching.