U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Jim Renacci (R-OH), Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing the Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act, which provides a long-term solution to ensure the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is sustainable. The HTF is set to run out of money in less than 50 days.
“We refuse to pass on the liability of our deteriorating roads and bridges to our children and grandchildren,” stated Reps. Pascrell, Renacci, Ribble and Lipinski. “The longer we wait to fix our crumbling infrastructure, the more it will cost in the long-run. We need to act now to fix the broken system. The users of our roads, workers, and state and local governments need the certainty that adequate and timely transportation program reauthorizations and funding provide. The Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act allows for the consideration of all viable options so that Congress can get serious about finding a long-term, sustainable solution for the Highway Trust Fund. It is our sincere hope that our colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support this important legislation so that the burden of our failing infrastructure isn’t passed on to the next generation.”
Maintenance of the U.S. highway system falls jointly on the states and the federal government, with about 80% of highway funding coming from the federally-administered HTF. Currently, the trust fund allocates about $50 billion annually to the states for upkeep of the system. This annual allotment has two major problems: the federal government is spending about $16 billion more annually than the trust fund is bringing in, and the U.S. is not spending enough to keep our infrastructure from crumbling.
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The funding situation for the HTF became dire last year when Congress was forced to act to temporarily infuse the fund with money from sources that have nothing to do with roads and bridges. This temporary infusion simply kicks the can down the road, only sustaining the fund until the end of May, when Congress will again have to act to ensure it remains solvent. If left unaddressed, the HTF is expected to run out of funding this summer, right during the heart of construction season. This uncertainty makes it difficult to plan for future projects and a shortfall in the fund has the potential to disrupt current projects. Our economy depends on an adequate infrastructure system — it is that simple.
The Bridge to Sustainable Infrastructure Act allows all transportation funding proposals to be considered, while simultaneously ensuring the trust fund remains solvent for no less than 10 years. To sustain the trust fund in the near-term, the legislation indexes the gas and diesel user fees to inflation — raising roughly $27.5 billion and providing funding for our infrastructure needs for 1.7 years.
To help reach a truly long-term funding solution, this legislation would create a bipartisan, bicameral Transportation Commission no later than Sept. 1, 2015. This group would be charged with determining a path forward for sustainable funding and would be advised to consider all options. Unfortunately, because Congress rarely acts without an “action forcing event,” Congress will be required to enact the recommendations of the commission, or any other funding mechanism that achieves at least three years of funding for the HTF, by Dec. 31, 2016.
If Congress fails to achieve at least three years of funding by this time, the gas and diesel user fees will increase to a level that would sustain the trust fund for a three-year period. Congress will again have the opportunity to get serious about funding our infrastructure during that time. If Congress fails to again implement long-term funding solutions, then the gas and diesel user fees would increase to meet the next five-year HTF shortfall, guaranteeing 10 years of funding.