Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on September 5th, 2008 at 4:23 pm
A story published today in the New York Times confirms previous speculation that America’s Highway Trust Fund is all but empty.
Here’s a snip from the NT Times story:
“Because the fund is draining away so fast, the Transportation Department will have to delay payments for the local projects, or reduce their amount, Ms. Peters said at a mid-day news conference.”
John Horsely, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) put what this means to states in blunt terms. He told the NY times that this situation has,
“…grave repercussions for the states, for hundreds of thousands of workers in the construction industry and the driving public.”
Director of AASHTO.
Of course, the culprit for this emergency is actually a positive thing for our country — Americans are driving billions of miles less than they have in previous years. Unfortunately, because of the broken way we fund the Highway Trust Fund
pay for transportation infrastructure (the Gas Tax), this means less dollars in federal coffers.
I think it’s clear we can’t count on Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to think of new ways out of this mess (which may be moot because she might not be around after the election), but I hope Mr. Horsely can flex his muscle at AASHTO for some new solutions and perspectives on transportation funding.
I bristled a bit at his “the driving public” comment. What about the growing number of Americans who don’t drive?
He said that AASHTO has set a goal to cut the rate of growth in VMT by 50% in 50 years (by 2055). Horsely also assured the crowd that he understands the need to shift more trips away from motor vehicles and toward biking, walking, and taking transit.
So this seems like a perfect opportunity to seize the moment and push toward more policies that will continue to encourage better transportation habits by more Americans.
But, for now, it seems like Washington will just throw money at the problem. The NY Times story reports that the House has passed an $8 billion bill that will allocated general federal revenue to “finance highway projects” and that it is like to pass so that “the states do not suffer.”
Read, Federal Highway Fund Running Out of Money at NYTimes.com.