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Transportation Funding Is Running Out And Hundreds Of Thousands Of Jobs Are At Risk

New estimates show that if Congress fails to act, transportation funding for projects to fix roads, bridges, and rails will run out by the fall.

A bit of background. The overwhelming majority of this transportation money comes from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which in turn is generated from a federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel. But it’s been 20 years since that tax has been increased. A combination of inflation, better fuel efficiency, and reduced driving have substantially reduced the amount it brings into the HTF and threatened its solvency. Congress has transferred money into the fund in recent years to give it a boost, but, according to the Department of Transportation, the HTF is set to experience a shortfall as early as July that will halt much-needed infrastructure improvements around the country.

America used to be a world leader when it came to investing in transportation infrastructure. Look at us now: the most recent report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers graded the nation’s infrastructure a ‘D+’. As of 2011, the United States was ranked 28th among industrialized countries for the percent of GDP we invest in transportation infrastructure:

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It’s time to act. We not only need to solve our short-term problems with the Highway Trust Fund, we need to commit to making long-term investments to modernize transportation in America. President Obama urged such action today, announcing a plan to accelerate and expand infrastructure permitting by traveling to the Tappan Zee Bridge to tout it as a success story. Furthermore, the President’s budget calls for a $302 billion investment in infrastructure, a large portion of which would come from closing tax loopholes that benefit special interests.

But it is up to Congress–and conservatives who refuse raising revenues no matter what–to follow through on solving this crisis and truly investing in a strong American economy. Most immediately, here is a look at some of the numbers if Congress fails to fund the Highway Trust Fund:

  • 700,000 construction jobs lost in the next year;
  • 112,000 roadway projects delayed;
  • 5,600 transit projects delayed.

And of course, a Congressional decision to think down the road and fund transportation infrastructure for the long-term could mean that we could get to work fixing the nearly 8,000 bridges that are at risk of collapsing at any moment; preventing the train derailments that put lives at risk and pollute our environment; and invest in 21st-century programs like faster broadband and high-speed rail.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s time for Congress to act to fund our roads and bridges before it becomes too late, forcing cities and states to halt projects and lay off workers in the prime of construction season. But we shouldn’t have to get to this point: Congress should commit to funding transportation long-term so that we have the resources necessary to truly invest in our country’s future.

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