In recent months, the media has reported widely on the dire state of the federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund is expected to run dry by the end of the summer if Congress does not act in ways that ensure its continued viability.
The main problem plaguing the trust fund is that it is funded primarily by gas taxes that Americans pay at the pump. It would seem at first glance that because American motorists continue to purchase gasoline that the fund could not possibly be in danger of running low, let alone empty. However, the federal gas tax rate that Americans pay has not been raised in more than two decades. Adding to this challenge is the fact that vehicles are increasingly fuel efficient so Americans are buying less gas per capita than they used to. Ultimately, tax revenue has failed to keep up with rising costs connected to upkeep of federal highways.
When highways are not properly maintained, the dangers present on old and decaying highways and bridges tend to cause car accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents. It is therefore imperative that the federal Highway Trust Fund is adequately supported.
Because this situation is becoming critically urgent, the New York Times reports that a broad coalition of labor unions and business groups are urging Congress to react to the situation with appropriate urgency. Should Congress fail to do so by August when funding runs dry, federal transportation and infrastructure projects, many of which are critical to public safety, will begin to shut down as well.
Source: New York Times, “Coalition Prods Congress on Transportation Fund,” Jonathan Weisman, July 7, 2014