A bold step was taken last week toward fixing how the United States finances the core of its surface transportation infrastructure. Will Congress pick up the ball and enact a bill with sufficient funding, or will the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) be faced with bankruptcy in less than a year? The HTF funds virtually all Federal investment in the nation’s highways and bridges, and 80 percent of Federal investment in transit. HTF bankruptcy through Congressional inaction would bring work on this infrastructure to a grinding halt.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced two bills to address the core of Federal investment needs. The first bill (HR 3636) raises fuel taxes, specifically to fund transportation infrastructure investment, by 15 cents per gallon over a three-year period. When fully implemented after three years, the increase would cost the average driver about $80 a year. This would bring the tax rates to the level they would have reached had they been indexed to inflation since 1993 (the last year that federal fuel taxes were raised). The schedule would replenish the HTF and enable investment to halt the deterioration of the nation's road and transit infrastructure.