Administration, others urge action on Highway Trust Fund

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Monday, July 07, 2014

President Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx have been out stumping in favor of transportation in recent days, urging Congress to act quickly to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.

Obama gave remarks about the Highway Trust Fund on July 1, using the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Washington, D.C., as the backdrop.

“If this Congress does not act by the end of the summer, the Highway Trust Fund will run out. There won’t be any money there,” Obama said.

“Soon, states may have to choose which projects to continue and which ones to put the brakes on because they’re running out of money,” Obama said. “Some have already done just that, just because they’re worried that Congress will not get its act together in time.”

Foxx recently wrote to states to say the Federal Highway Administration will have to reduce payments to states for transportation projects starting on Aug. 1.

The Congressional Budget Office has said the Highway Trust Fund will face a deficit on Aug. 1 unless Congress approves a stopgap measure or takes action on a longer-term highway bill.

With the August congressional recess looming, many sources are putting a longer-term highway bill on the back burner to focus on an immediate, short-term fix.

Even Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who has been campaigning for a longer-term bill, has conceded the need for a short-term fix.

“I still believe we must immediately move forward with a six-year bill. But recognizing the looming bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund this summer, the second-best option to protect jobs and keep transportation projects moving forward during this summer construction season is to pass a funding patch for the Highway Trust Fund through December,” Boxer stated in an editorial to large media publications.

Washington insiders say the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and of the House Ways and Means Committee were working this week on a possible “patch” for the trust fund. The possible length and dollar value of the patch have not yet been disclosed.

Transportation groups, labor organizations and others have also stepped forward to urge congressional action.

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