Highway Trust Fund

Eight state legislators from around the country, many of them transportation committee chairs or vice chairs in their respective states, attended the 5th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy May 11-13, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The academy, which took place during Infrastructure Week, included a tour of transportation projects in Northern Virginia, a keynote address by Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn, a luncheon at the D.C. office of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a standing-room-only briefing for Capitol Hill staffers on the importance of continuing federal transportation investment to state and local officials, a conversation with officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation, a dinner with representatives of two of the largest transportation-related membership associations—the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the American Public Transportation Association and a briefing on the status of state exploration of mileage-based user fees. Attendees also took part in a transportation policy roundtable with representatives of ASCE, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Transportation for America, the Eno Center for Transportation, the American Trucking Associations and UPS. Finally, the legislators were able to take part in Infrastructure Week activities including Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. This page includes photos from the three-day academy, the complete agenda for the event and links to web pages where you can read extended excerpts of remarks from many of the speakers.

A bipartisan group of senators this week introduced a six-year transportation authorization bill that proposes to increase highway spending by almost 13 percent and spread more than $2 billion a year among states to invest in freight facility improvements. But with a July 31 deadline fast approaching, Congress is still at a loss when it comes to how they might pay for such a bill.

James Corless is the Director of Transportation for America (T4America). Jeff Davis and Emil Frankel are Senior Fellows at the Eno Center for Transportation. All three were panelists at a May 12 transportation policy roundtable as part of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy. In these excerpted portions of their remarks to state legislators attending the academy, they discuss the past, present and future of the federal-state-local partnership on transportation.

Janet Kavinoky is the Executive Director for Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC and Vice President of the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition. Pat Thomas is Vice President of Global Public Affairs for UPS and currently serves as First Vice Chairman at the American Trucking Associations. Both were speakers at a transportation policy roundtable May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy. In these excerpted portions of their remarks to state legislators attending the academy, they spoke about why both of their organizations support a federal gas tax increase, why Congress hasn’t been able to reach agreement on a plan to meet the nation’s infrastructure investment needs, what it may take to convince them to do so and how predicted changes ahead for freight transportation makes a national focus on the issue imperative.

Joung Lee is the Policy Director at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in Washington, DC. He was among the speakers at a policy roundtable CSG hosted May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy. During these portions of his remarks, Lee spoke to state legislators attending the academy about why the federal Highway Trust Fund faces insolvency again this summer and some of the options Congress could consider to address the situation.

Brian Pallasch is the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, DC. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 12 as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington. During these excerpts from his remarks, he discusses ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the economic costs of not investing in infrastructure, why ASCE supports an increase in the federal gas tax and a permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund and why he believes a proposal to eliminate the federal role in transportation is a bad idea.

Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn was the keynote speaker at the opening dinner of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, DC on May 11. Rahn, who was appointed by Governor Larry Hogan on January 21st of this year, is the first person to lead transportation departments in three different states—New Mexico, Missouri and now Maryland. In these excerpts of his remarks, Rahn touched on hot button topics like Hogan’s reassessment of two light rail projects in the state and recent decision to lower tolls on bridges and roadways in the name of tax relief. He also weighed in on how he thinks Congress might address expiring federal transportation program authorization and the dwindling Highway Trust Fund.

State lawmakers in Nebraska voted last week (May 14) to override the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts and approve a six-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase. In doing so, Nebraska became the sixth state to approve a gas tax increase for transportation needs this year. That equals the number of states that moved major transportation funding packages in 2013, the most recent big year for such efforts. The news came during Infrastructure Week just as many participants were hearing that Congress is unlikely to follow suit anytime soon to shore up the dwindling Highway Trust Fund and provide any long-term certainty for state transportation officials.

Michigan voters Tuesday declined to support a ballot measure that would have hiked the state’s general sales tax, fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to provide funding for dilapidated roads but removed the sales tax on fuel, which currently goes to other purposes. I also have a report from last week’s International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike conference on transportation finance and road usage charging in Portland, Oregon. I’ll bring you up to speed about CSG’s involvement in next week’s Infrastructure Week activities and look ahead to a conference next month highlighting public-private partnerships.

The latest extension of a 2012 federal transportation bill is set to expire May 31 and with its expiration, the Highway Trust Fund is expected to run out of money. With this looming deadline, many wonder if a long-term bill to reauthorize and fund transportation programs is in the cards, and whether Congress will have a plan to pay for it. During this FREE eCademy webcast, experts provide an update on where things stand in Washington with just over a month to go before the deadline. State officials offer their perspectives on the toll the uncertainty has taken on some state transportation projects and how two states were able to approve transportation funding measures in recent years.

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