Money for Highway Trust Fund could run out by August - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Budget for nation's roads, bridges set to run dry this summer

Funding for major highways, bridges and other transit projects is in danger if the federal Highway Trust Fund is not replenished. (Source: GNU/MGN) Funding for major highways, bridges and other transit projects is in danger if the federal Highway Trust Fund is not replenished. (Source: GNU/MGN)
  • Government shutdown endNational politicsMore>>

  • Travel ban case is justices' first dive into Trump policy

    Travel ban case is justices' first dive into Trump policy

    Monday, April 23 2018 12:55 AM EDT2018-04-23 04:55:02 GMT
    Monday, April 23 2018 11:18 AM EDT2018-04-23 15:18:21 GMT
    Supreme Court justices' first deep dive into a Trump administration policy comes in a dispute over the administration's ban on travel from some countries with majority Muslim populations.More >>
    Supreme Court justices' first deep dive into a Trump administration policy comes in a dispute over the administration's ban on travel from some countries with majority Muslim populations.More >>
  • Koch network success in Trump era draws Democratic pushback

    Koch network success in Trump era draws Democratic pushback

    Monday, April 23 2018 4:25 AM EDT2018-04-23 08:25:34 GMT
    Monday, April 23 2018 11:16 AM EDT2018-04-23 15:16:34 GMT
    (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File). FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2013, file photo, Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla. A sure sign of policy success for the sprawling conservative network funded by the billionair...(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File). FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2013, file photo, Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla. A sure sign of policy success for the sprawling conservative network funded by the billionair...
    The sprawling conservative network funded by the billionaire Koch brothers is having a very good run with Trump in the White House and Republican control of Congress, prompting pushback from Democrats.More >>
    The sprawling conservative network funded by the billionaire Koch brothers is having a very good run with Trump in the White House and Republican control of Congress, prompting pushback from Democrats.More >>
  • Pompeo facing rare opposition from Senate panel

    Pompeo facing rare opposition from Senate panel

    Monday, April 23 2018 1:05 AM EDT2018-04-23 05:05:19 GMT
    Monday, April 23 2018 11:07 AM EDT2018-04-23 15:07:39 GMT
    (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File). In this April 12, 2018, photo, Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo speaks during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his confirmation on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Trump’s nominee for secreta...(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File). In this April 12, 2018, photo, Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo speaks during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his confirmation on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Trump’s nominee for secreta...
    Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is facing serious opposition before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which may not have enough votes to recommend his confirmation.More >>
    Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is facing serious opposition before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which may not have enough votes to recommend his confirmation.More >>

(RNN) - The program that supports the building and repair of interstate highways and bridges could go bankrupt in a matter of months due to a monetary shortfall directly tied to gas consumption.

The Highway Trust Fund was created in 1956 to build roads across the country, and its primary money source is the federal gas tax.

According to most experts, including Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, funding at current levels would devoid it of cash by August at the latest. The fund could be completely defunct by 2015.

The current 18.4 cents tax on regular gasoline has not been raised since 1993 when the average price of gasoline was about $1.05. The current tax on diesel fuel stands at 24.4 cents per gallon.

In the meantime, inflation has hit every sector of society, and the types of projects the Highway Trust Fund supports has expanded.

This is not a new problem. As far back as 1997, Congress has moved money from the general fund into the Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent, and $54 billion has been moved since 2008.

The 2010 Simpson-Bowles deficit commission report recommended a 15-cent increase on the gas tax, an idea the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Trucking Associations and AAA support.

But with Congressional midterm elections coming in November, lawmakers might be even more reluctant to tell Americans they are adding more taxes to their gas.

According to AAA Director of Federal Relations Avery Ash, few other logical solutions exist.

"The gas tax is very easy to collect, it's low-cost, it's proven, we know it works," Ash said. "The Highway Trust Fund has been built on it for decades, and there is a very low incidence of being able to avoid it. There are opportunities to gain the system, so we think it's the fairest, most reliable and best option we have right now."

A worst-case scenario is the delay or complete halt of road construction projects in virtually every state, which would mean loss of jobs and bottlenecks on roadways and mass transit lines.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will take $15 billion to keep the program solvent for the 2015 fiscal year and $172 billion during the next 10 years to operate at its current level.

Otherwise, nearly 187,000 transit-related jobs could be lost, according to the nonpartisan Center for American Progress.

The Department of Transportation sent a proposal to Congress on April 29 calling for $302 billion for the HTF in the next four years. More than half of that would come from sources other than the federal gas tax, including revenue from changes to business taxes and allowances for states to impose more highway tolls. The National Highway Safety Administration could also raise its fine for automaker safety violations from $35 million to $300 million.

Why the money is drying up

Driver behavior is another factor that has taken a chunk out of the Highway Trust Fund. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show fuel consumption in every classification of light-duty passenger vehicle has decreased in the past 20 years. The average brand new car got 28.4 miles per gallon in 1993. In 2012, the most recent year reported, a new car got 35.6. With more emphasis on green technology, that number is expected to improve even more.

Estimates from the Federal Highway Administration show total miles driven in the U.S. increased every year from 2000 to 2007, when they peaked at 3.03 trillion.

However, when adjusted for population changes, the per capita driving distance has dropped for nine consecutive years.

"Evidence suggests that the decline is likely due to changing demographics, saturated highways, and a rising preference for compact, mixed-use neighborhoods, which reduce the need for driving," the State Smart Transportation Initiative wrote in an analysis of FHWA numbers. "Some key factors that pushed VMT (vehicle miles traveled) upward for decades – including a growing workforce and rising automobile ownership – have also slowed considerably."

Transportation planning has operated on the assumption that automobile use would increase, according to the SSTI, but recent trends have forced several states to rethink their strategies.

Who shoulders the load

That brings into play a virtually ageless argument - how much of this issue belongs in the hands of the federal government as opposed to the states.

"The time is long overdue for Congress to define what role, if any, the federal government should play in the renewal, expansion, and operation of the nation's surface transportation networks and facilities," wrote Emil H. Frankel, a transportation consultant at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "Until the federal role has been redefined (and almost certainly drawn more narrowly than it was in the last half of the 20th century), no reasonable and productive discussion can occur about how we should fund federal transportation programs."

Though state departments of transportation bear the bulk of responsibility for building and maintaining roads, they receive an average federal reimbursement of 45 percent, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Those reimbursement checks could come at a reduced rate on the dollar or not at all if Congress does not shore up money in the HTF.

The timing could not be worse, as the ASCE recently gave American roads a "D" grade in a report it releases every four years. It added that poor conditions on 42 percent of major roadways costs the country $101 billion in wasted fuel and time.

And that was an improvement from the previous report card.

"It is clear that we have a significant backlog of overdue maintenance across our infrastructure systems, a pressing need for modernization, and an immense opportunity to create reliable, long-term funding sources to avoid wiping out our recent gains," the ASCE said.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • Travel newsTravel & vacation newsMore>>

  • Musk's LA transport tunnel proposal takes step forward

    Musk's LA transport tunnel proposal takes step forward

    Thursday, April 19 2018 10:52 AM EDT2018-04-19 14:52:52 GMT
    Monday, April 23 2018 8:28 AM EDT2018-04-23 12:28:51 GMT
    A Los Angeles City Council committee has approved an environmental review exemption for a tunnel Elon Musk wants to dig to test a novel underground transportation system.More >>
    A Los Angeles City Council committee has approved an environmental review exemption for a tunnel Elon Musk wants to dig to test a novel underground transportation system.More >>
  • Delta passenger fined $500 for apple

    Delta passenger fined $500 for apple

    Saturday, April 21 2018 1:01 PM EDT2018-04-21 17:01:03 GMT
    Saturday, April 21 2018 6:45 PM EDT2018-04-21 22:45:42 GMT
    adlock's healthy snack turned into a tough reality to stomach. (Source: KDVR/CNN)adlock's healthy snack turned into a tough reality to stomach. (Source: KDVR/CNN)

    Crystal Tadlock is not happy about the fine she said

    More >>

    Crystal Tadlock is not happy about the fine she said

    More >>
  • European regulators tighten order for jet fan blade tests

    European regulators tighten order for jet fan blade tests

    Saturday, April 21 2018 5:44 AM EDT2018-04-21 09:44:12 GMT
    Saturday, April 21 2018 6:24 PM EDT2018-04-21 22:24:55 GMT
    (NTSB via AP). In this Tuesday, April 17, 2018 frame from video, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator examines damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport in P...(NTSB via AP). In this Tuesday, April 17, 2018 frame from video, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator examines damage to the engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport in P...
    The European Aviation Safety Agency has tightened a nearly month-old directive ordering inspections of some fan blades in engines like those used on a Southwest Airlines jet involved in a fatal accident.More >>
    The European Aviation Safety Agency has tightened a nearly month-old directive ordering inspections of some fan blades in engines like those used on a Southwest Airlines jet involved in a fatal accident.More >>
Powered by Frankly