A five year federal transportation reauthorization bill was an important step in stabilizing transportation funding. But as this article indicates the states must recognize the need for additional state transportation funding if state DOTs are going to be able to maintain the current systems and meet the needs of growing populations.

fastact

FAST Act… a step… but not final solution

AASHTO Journal
April 15, 2016

A number of state departments of transportation are telling lawmakers and residents to expect their highway systems to continue to deteriorate unless legislatures provide more project funding, and some states are eyeing unusual steps to keep projects moving.

A senior Michigan DOT official – Chief Operations Officer Mark Van Port Fleet – recently warned state House and Senate transportation committees, the Detroit News reported, that “the results of our predictive model is that the condition of pavement is going to continue to decline” despite higher state and federal funding levels approved in the past year.

A March 22 MDOT staff analysis said: “A significant amount of pavement is in fair condition. Even with the recent passage of increased state and federal transportation revenue, many of these pavements, if not addressed soon, will fall into poor condition. Once pavements deteriorate into the poor category, it is more costly to bring them back into good condition.”

New state projections also see vehicle miles on state roads going up faster than earlier estimates, with congestion continuing to worsen.

The MDOT official told lawmakers that a large multiyear state funding plan, signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last November, is “going to slow the decline” in road conditions, the Detroit News said.

AASHTO and other industry trade groups have said the new five-year FAST Act federal surface transportation legislation provided “modest” increases in core highway and transit program funding. While that was an improvement from previous levels, AASHTO has said it was not enough to allow states to eliminate their large backlog of needed infrastructure projects to maintain their networks and reduce congestion. Read on…

The Hill
February 17, 2016

Getty Images

Getty Images

The federal government would get more bang for their buck if U.S. drivers were charged directly for their use of highways through tolls or mileage fees, a new study from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says.

The report from Congress’s budgetary scorekeepers says current “spending on highways does not correspond very well with how the roads are used and valued.”

The CBO said mechanisms like tolling, mileage fees or congestion pricing could be considered to fund transportation projects in lieu of relying mostly on gas tax revenue.

“Almost all federal spending for highways occurs through formula grants to state and local governments, and historically, less than half of the funding has been tied directly to the amount of travel on the roads,” the report said.

“Although data from the past 20 years show that, on average, pavement quality is improving, fewer bridges have deficiencies, and highway fatalities occur less frequently, those averages mask differences between urban and rural areas and between interstate highways and other roads, differences that sometimes are not reflected in spending,” the report continued. Read on…

Complete Congressional Budget Office Report

Majority of Americans Believe a Tax Increase is Necessary to Repair Roads

American Trucking Associations
October 20, 2015

ataA new national poll released today found strong support for federal investment in highway infrastructure.
The poll, the second commissioned by American Trucking Associations, was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies between August 30 and September 1, surveyed 800 registered voters on their attitudes about politics, the trucking industry and the state of infrastructure.

“The results of this poll should be taken very seriously by members of Congress as they work to complete a long-term highway bill,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “This poll tells us the American people now believe what we’ve been saying for some time: our roads and bridges are in need of repair and we need to raise revenue to do it.”

Among the poll’s findings were:

  • Infrastructure spending is second only to education (by a 64-60 margin) the area the public thinks more money needs to be spent.
  • The number of people who believe more needs to be spent on infrastructure has risen 12 points – from 48% in 2014 to 60% this year.
  • Forty percent of the public thinks infrastructure should be a top priority for federal spending.
  • Sixty-three percent of Americans believe our roads and bridges are not being properly maintained.
  • And a majority of Americans – 53% – believe it will be necessary to raise taxes to properly maintain roads and bridges.
  • However, the public remains opposed to raising the fuel tax, raising income taxes, Interstate tolling and adding registration fees to pay for needed maintenance, but when forced to choose – the public supports raising the fuel tax over tolling.

Read on…

Presentation of National Trucking Survey by ATA

The AAA poll showed 70 percent of U.S. residents think “the federal government should invest more than it does now for roads, bridges and mass transit systems.”

The Hill
October 13, 2014

highwayconstruction_070715gn2_0Seventy percent of U.S. residents want Congress to increase the amount of money it spends on transportation projects, according to a new poll released on Tuesday by the AAA auto club.

The finding comes as lawmakers are facing an Oct. 29 deadline for renewing federal infrastructure spending.

The AAA poll showed 70 percent of U.S. residents think “the federal government should invest more than it does now for roads, bridges and mass transit systems.”

The group’s president, Marshall Doney, said the findings should spur Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill instead of settling for a temporary patch at the end of the month.

“Americans rely on our nation’s roads and bridges every day, yet Congressional inaction has led to longer commutes, more potholes and unsafe conditions,” Doney said in a statement. “Motorists are dissatisfied that our national leaders repeatedly have failed to meet the basic needs of drivers across the country.”   Read on…

AASHTO Journal
September 18, 2015

8803993_GTop officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation pressed Congress to pass a substantive long-term surface transportation bill before 2015 runs out, while scores of industry groups urged lawmakers to end a cycle of short extensions and provide the economic lift a long-term bill can bring.

Increasingly in recent days, lawmakers focused on a range of other looming issues with closer deadlines, including the need to agree on a government-wide funding plan before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year or face a potential government shutdown.

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has not yet scheduled a markup session for his committee’s version of a long-term highway, transit and rail programs authorization. He has said he expects that to occur late this month or early in October.

Congress will also need to extend the Federal Aviation Administration, whose authority is set to expire that same day, to avoid interrupting some of its programs that affect a number of state departments of transportation. Politico reported that Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said he and Shuster have been discussing how to move an FAA extension, perhaps by attaching it to a short-term government funding bill.
The Highway Trust Fund is authorized through Oct. 29, which takes it past the Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year and would leave the Federal Highway Administration unaffected during a possible government shutdown before then. Read on…

U.S. Department of Transportation – When we published our latest Highway Trust Fund ticker last month, it created some confusion. Some observers misconstrued the numbers to indicate that the Highway Account of the Trust Fund will be “out of the woods” for many months to come. That is hardly the case. Indeed, the trust fund could be facing rocky seas and therefore need additional funding from Congress before the end of the year, potentially as soon as this coming November.

With the recent funding infusion that Congress authorized in July, we anticipate the cash balance of the highway account staying above zero until June 2016, but that is far from the whole story.

Given the volatility of revenues and expenditures and the uncertainty of very micro-level projections, DOT must consider employing methods to conserve cash once the balance of the highway account falls below a prudent threshold. The latest transfer from the General Fund keeps the account’s cash balance above the prudent level of $4 billion, but only until November 2015. Read on…

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AASHTO Journal
September 4, 2015

capitalsunWith Congress due back in Washington right after Labor Day, many lawmakers got late reminders that their home states need a long-term highway bill that provides certainty and substantial Highway Trust Fund disbursements for years beyond the current Oct. 29 expiration.

The latest push came from governors in the Northeast, a mid-South state and from leading national business and labor groups, all pressing Congress to end the cycles of short-term patches to the trust fund and to invest in infrastructure programs that boost the economy.

The chief executives of seven states who form the Coalition of Northeastern Governors sent an Aug. 31 letter on surface transportation infrastructure needs to the top lawmakers in the two House committees that write transportation program authorizing legislation and find ways to pay for it.

“We strongly encourage the House and Senate to enact a fully funded, multiyear authorization bill that includes a sustainable revenue stream dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund,” the governors told the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Ways and Means Committee. Read on…

The Hill
September 1, 2015

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Seventy-one percent of U.S. residents would support a 10-cent increase in the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that is used to pay for federal transportation projects, according to a new poll released this week.

The survey, conducted by the San Jose, Calif.-based Mineta Transportation Institute, comes as lawmakers are facing an Oct. 29 deadline for renewing federal infrastructure spending that has been the subject of debate in Washington for most of the year.

Support for increasing the gas tax to 28 cents-per-gallon drops to 31 percent if the money is used to “maintain and improve the transportation system” instead of “improve road maintenance,” according to the group.
The group behind the study said “the survey results show that a majority of Americans would support higher taxes for transportation—under certain conditions.” Read on…

Thank you to the Senators that supported a long term transportation bill!

AASHTO Journal
July 31, 2015

Congress voted for yet another short-term patch to the Highway Trust Fund with a three-month extension past its scheduled July 31 expiration.

But the Senate also passed a multi-year authorization of highway, transit and rail programs, while House leaders said they would move their own long-term bill in coming months and then negotiate a final one with senators.

supporters_of_long_term_transportation_billSo although Congress in its latest action only authorized the trust fund through Oct. 29 – for the third short extension in the past year – the outlook greatly improved for lawmakers to enact a major long-term surface transportation bill in 2015.

At the same time, lawmakers set up another near-term expiration that can still weigh on project planning for some states, and made October a high-stakes deadline month. Read on…

Politico Morning Transportation

July 30, 2015

It’s the eve of deadline day. And by mid-afternoon, the Senate is expected to have sent a three-month transportation patch off for the president’s signature. While there are never any guarantees some senator won’t march onto the floor with an objection that forces the chamber through a maze of procedural maneuvers just to eventually achieve the same end, it seems like everybody in the upper chamber is sufficiently on board with the vote, which will take 60 supporters to pass.

True to his word, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will first make lawmakers finish what they started 10 days ago – consideration of the multi-year bill that’s not sailing off to the White House anytime soon. That first passage vote is scheduled for noon. And the vote on clearing the three-month patch is set for 1:45 p.m..
Presidential approval: Despite the White House’s previous insistence that lawmakers tack a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank onto whatever transportation plan they pass this month, the folks over at 1600 Penn. sent word Wednesday that President Barack Obama would in fact sign the patch.

Lopsided vote: On the Hill, there has been an overwhelming willingness to back the three-month extension, even as Democrats chastise GOP leaders for punting again. After spending hours bashing Republican leaders for not keeping the House in session long enough to take up the Senate’s multi-year bill, the vast majority of Democrats voted for passage of the measure, which skated through on a tally of 385-34.