HTF Press Conf w Foxx

PROVIDENCE, RI – U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today met with Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline to discuss the need for action in Congress to prevent federal transportation funds from running out in the coming weeks and delaying road work in Rhode Island and other states across the country. 

For decades the federal Highway Trust Fund has supported repairs, maintenance, and new construction of roads, bridges, and public transportation across America.  The Trust Fund’s primary source of revenue comes from the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gasoline tax and a 24.4 cent-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel.  The challenge now is that the federal gas tax, last adjusted in 1993, doesn't generate nearly enough money to cover current highway spending.

This week, the Obama Administration announced that accelerating declines in gas tax revenues will force delays in reimbursements to the states for highway projects starting on August 1st.  The Administration also warned that the Trust Fund’s Mass Transit Account is also expected to run short of funds by October. 

As a result, some transportation projects may continue with state funding, while others may be delayed.

“Transportation helps drive our economy.  But partisan gridlock in Washington is threatening to put the brakes on,” said Reed.  “Today, Secretary Foxx, Governor Chafee, Director Lewis, and my fellow members of the delegation and I met to discuss the urgent problem in finding a sustainable funding stream for our roads, bridges, and transit systems.”

“As we’ve been warning for some time, the federal Highway Trust Fund is on the cusp of insolvency, with a cash shortage looming at the end of this month,” continued Reed.  “Allowing the Trust Fund to become insolvent would be enormously damaging to our economy.  Congress needs to work together to keep construction workers on the job, keep our economy moving, and keep these much needed road and bridge repairs on track.”

Rhode Island relies heavily on federal funding for our surface transportation projects, and this highway trust fund crisis is already being felt at the local level. RIDOT has already put 20 projects valued at $67 million on hold because of the funding uncertainty. 

For decades, Congress has adopted transportation bills with little controversy. 

“There are some, particularly in the House, that say we should simply scale back our investment in transportation.  That’s not something Rhode Island or the country can afford,” stated Reed. “It will take swift bipartisan action and cooperation to avert another costly disaster.  I know my colleagues, the Secretary, and the Governor are all ready to do everything they can to help prevent us from defaulting on our transportation infrastructure bills.  It is critical that we address the short-term crisis and adopt a long-term reauthorization as soon as possible.  In fact, that process is underway in the Senate.  And I hope the House will start to take action.”

“I will continue to work with Secretary Foxx and my colleagues in the Senate to bridge the divide and restore funding for the Highway Trust Fund in a responsible way that keeps construction workers on the job and our infrastructure projects on schedule.  Rhode Island has a lot at stake here in terms of the state’s economy and fiscal stability, not to mention public safety.”

There has been some bipartisan cooperation this year on the need to move forward with a comprehensive transportation reauthorization in the U.S. Senate.  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has reported a bipartisan six-year highway reauthorization bill.  The Banking and Commerce Committee are expected to address public transit, safety, and rail provisions in the coming weeks, and the Senate Finance Committee is currently considering legislation that will provide enough money to keep us flush through the end of 2014 in order to allow time for a longer term bill to work its way through the House and Senate.

“Again, investing in our roads, bridges, and transit systems is absolutely key to creating good jobs and helping businesses grow,” concluded Reed.  “We can’t allow political gridlock to threaten our economy.  We need to get this done.”