At its meeting today, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) voted to send a letter to Congress, calling for the replenishment of the Federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and the reauthorization of MAP-21, the current surface transportation funding package passed in 2012. The impending insolvency of the HTF will jeopardize critical projects in the coming fiscal year, which is set to improve safety on roads, railways, and pedestrian and bike infrastructure for more than 5 million people in the region.
The Highway Trust Fund is likely to run out of funds by August 2014. As the letter notes, federal per-gallon excise taxes on motor fuels, traditionally the main source of revenue for the HTF, have not been increased in more than 20 years. In recent years, the HTF has only been kept solvent through General Fund transfers to the HTF. These one-time fixes have been used to fill the widening gap between traditional revenue sources and the region’s growing transportation needs.
Compounding the imminent default of the HTF in August is the expiration of MAP-21 on September 30. DeLania Hardy, Executive Director of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO), presented to the TPB and noted these funding gaps give MPOs few options for planning for the future of our economy and said that “failure to fix HTF funding means no new funding commitments in 2015.” Hardy also noted that, “a two year reauthorization [at current spending levels] would still require $35 billion in new revenue to the Highway Trust Fund.”
The letter also notes that recent measures to raise new transportation funding locally by the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have shown a regional commitment to growing the economy and increasing mobility. The TPB urges decisive federal action to meet the region’s needs.