Highway Trust Fund is almost broke

| 6/3/2009

The nation’s Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for roads and bridges, will go broke in two months unless the U.S. Congress supplies emergency funding.

The Obama administration recently briefed Senate lawmakers about the likely need for a short-term cash infusion as Congress continues to work on long-term funding solutions.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, aired a sense of urgency on Tuesday, June 2, during a committee hearing on President Obama’s nomination of Victor M. Mendez to head the Federal Highway Administration.

“According to DOT and other Obama administration officials, the Highway Trust Fund is estimated to have insufficient cash by August of this year to make good on prior commitments, and therefore an additional $5 billion to $7 billion will be needed to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through the end of fiscal year 2009,” Boxer stated.

In September 2008, Congress enacted an emergency measure to restore $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, which had been previously diverted for uses other than for highways.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said transportation lawmakers are aware of the pendulum shift and the urgency to deal with it.

“We certainly wouldn’t want anything to happen that would hamper projects in the pipeline right now when our economy needs construction and infrastructure improvement,” Joyce told Land Line.

Declining mileage and fuel consumption have played a role in the Trust Fund decline, but so too has truck and equipment sales upon which the government collects a 12 percent excise tax.

The FHWA attributed 33 percent, or $763 million, of the $1.37 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2008 to the drop in truck and equipment sales.

Tire taxes accounted for $29.8 million of the shortfall, while the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax declined by $1.3 million, all indicators of tough economic times for truckers.

– By David Tanner, staff writer

– Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report