Highway Trust Fund: advocating for a long-term extension

With a shutdown of federal highway projects looming, Congress recently passed a three month extension for the Highway Trust Fund.

This extension ensures that projects will be funded until October 29. While this may seem like good news, it is only a temporary fix.

The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) was established nearly 60 years ago, and provides funds for roads and mass transit.

The fund, which is derived from fuel and excise taxes, is extremely important to infrastructure maintenance in this country.

Transportation infographic 1 jobsGiven it’s importance, it’s troubling to see the HTF’s pending $13 billion gap this year.

Much of this is due to the fact that a large percentage of its revenue is generated from fuel taxes, and increases in fuel efficiency has led to a decline in gasoline sales in recent years.

Given this gap, and a myriad of political issues, Congress has often struggled to find a long-term funding solution for the HTF.

In fact, the most recent extension is the 34th in the last decade.

The lack of a long-term plan puts the fund, and projects that rely on it, in jeopardy.

The Senate recently passed a measure that would extend the HTF for six addition years, providing funding for three of these years. The bill however, has not been taken up by the House of Representatives.

A long term extension of the HTF will almost certainly require new revenue sources to close the gap from declining fuel sales.

The exact revenue sources, whether raising the fuel tax or pulling from other sources, will certainly be a contested issue.

However, given the state of infrastructure in this country, an adequately funded HTF is crucial.

Transpo infrastructure blog infographic1According to the Department of Transportation, the nation needs to spend at least $124 billion a year to maintain our current infrastructure.

Currently, The HTF funds around $50 billion in projects each year.

This all comes at a time when so much infrastructure in Western New York is in dire need of repair.

A March 2015 study conducted by transportation research group TRIP found that 32 percent of roads in the Buffalo area were in poor or mediocre condition.

A well-maintained transportation infrastructure is vital to the economic success of the region. Especially when you consider our proximity to the border and the constant movement of freight and commodities.

Furthermore, an efficient transportation infrastructure ensures the movement of people through jobs, whether it be via road or public transit.

We feel strongly that a long term solution that provides adequate, long-term funding for the HTF must be established in order to continue the growth and economic prosperity of the Buffalo Niagara region.