Friday, June 12, 2015

Billy Long: We need a solid plan for our Highway Trust Fund

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Roads and bridges – we all use them, and they are deteriorating with each passing day. Our transportation system was once the envy of the world, but we now find ourselves dodging potholes and crossing deficient bridges. This week, the House passed H.R. 2577, theTransportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016, to invest in our infrastructure and dedicate funds for high-priority programs to make America’s transportation system reliable, safe and efficient.

Transportation funding is an issue from the local level all the way to the federal level. We, in southwest Missouri, will soon see the policy implications of a prolonged transportation debate, where dwindling state funds could clash with uncertainty surrounding federal transportation funding. At the heart of the debate is the Federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which since 1956 has provided states assistance with transportation construction and maintenance project costs and is primarily funded with federal gas tax revenue. HTF covers approximately 80 percent of state project costs. Without certainty for highway funds moving forward, state transportation departments, such as MoDOT, cannot plan to fix critical infrastructure problems or maintain the existing system. They can only plan for short-term, low-cost maintenance and minimal safety improvements.

Twenty-two percent of Missouri’s major roadways have a “poor” rating and 23 percent of bridges need to be repaired, improved or replaced. This leads to bad roads, which are costly for drivers. As a result, an April 2015 study shows Springfield metro area drivers lose $1,134 annually due to additional vehicle operating costs, congested-related delays and crashes.

Our nation’s economy is built on our infrastructure – whether it is the roadways, railways and tarmacs to get goods to markets or providing jobs for those who build. If our infrastructure crumbles, so goes our economy. We need to have a solid plan to continue HTF and prevent further deterioration of infrastructure. H.R. 2577 provides HTF with $40.25 billion next fiscal year, pending Congress’ reauthorization of the program in July. I look forward to lively debate on long-term HTF reauthorization, providing states with certainty on a path forward before the program expires at the end of the summer.

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