Other Voices

Texas needs federal road trust fund

At the end of May, the U.S. House voted to extend federal transportation funding for two months in an attempt to prevent the interruption of the nation’s infrastructure funding that had been scheduled at end of this month.

While this is a commendable step forward, representatives in Washington must continue to press forward and find a long-term, sustainable solution to extend the Highway Trust Fund.

Unless Congress acts, funding for transportation projects will run out by the end of July.

In the final days of the 84th Texas legislative session, lawmakers made a long-overdue, multibillion-dollar commitment to the importance of transportation, with sources of road money approaching the $5 billion-per-year goal lawmakers had for roadway funding in Texas.

It is time for Congress to follow suit at the federal level.

The fund reimburses states for the cost of highway improvements and mass transit projects.

This is paramount. A special transportation committee of Texas business and civic leaders, working with the Texas Transportation Institute, recently calculated Texas’ unmet transportation needs at $5 billion annually.

Why does the failure to extend the fund matter?

▪ Transportation projects boost local economies.

▪ Poor transportation infrastructure hurts our global competitiveness.

▪ Congestion raises the cost of doing business.

▪  As a result, good jobs are not created.

The average Texan loses $1,000 and 44 hours every year due to congestion.

The booming growth that Texas is experiencing further necessitates the need for this investment in infrastructure.

This economic growth is good for our families and communities, but it also strains our roads and other crucial infrastructure as the state continues to grow.

Our organization estimates another 18 million Texas vehicles by 2040. Without the proper investments, gridlock and roadway safety will worsen and our economy and quality of life will suffer.

The current law, which was passed in 2012 and funded construction for two years at a total cost of $109 billion, was extended last summer for eight months. But patchwork extensions make it difficult for states to budget for these long-term, multi-year construction projects.

The Obama administration has proposed a six-year extension at a cost of $478 billion, but mostly pays for it by taxing corporate profits currently stored overseas. That is likely a nonstarter for many Republicans.

Solutions for funding the Trust Fund, such as raising the gas tax, are politically tough, even with gas prices down near $2 a gallon.

The gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993, and greater fuel efficiency means cars drive further for less gas tax revenue, which puts a strain on our highway system.

A negotiated solution is urgently needed.

I was encouraged to hear Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) say earlier this year that funding highway improvements is “critically important.”

Our transportation infrastructure should be a top priority, because responsible investment in transportation infrastructure will lead to stronger economic growth, providing Americans with easier access to jobs.

Scott Haywood is president of Move Texas Forward, a nonpartisan organization that works to educate and inform Texans about the importance of funding transportation infrastructure.