Cumberland Times-News


July 7, 2014

Tank empty

Congress must find way to replenish highway trust fund

— Now that Congress has returned to work after a summer recess its members finally have to decide what to do about the embattled federal highway trust fund.

The fund helps with construction projects in all 50 states but is expected to run out of money at the end of August. Last year, $37 billion in road projects came out of the federal highway fund.

Not surprisingly — because of partisan politics — legislators in both parties support federal highway funding but differ on how to replenish the dwindling trust fund. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement before Aug. 1, political observers in Washington believe a short-term agreement will  be reached instead, extending funding for the trust account through the end of the year. While that would fix the problem for a few months, it only delays an ultimate solution.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the highway trust fund receives its money from an 18.4-cent federal gas tax. But the tax is not producing enough revenue and the trust fund’s deficit is at $14 billion annually.

Maryland implemented a half-cent gasoline tax on July 1. The state comptroller’s office said the increase will net the state $97 million more money for highway projects this year.

But Maryland, like all states, heavily relies on federal highway trust funds for highway and bridge projects. If the federal funding dries up, those projects will come to a halt.

Highway conditions in Allegany and Garrett counties have worsened in the last few years because of cutbacks in highway funding from the state. If federal funds also come into jeopardy, the condition of  local roads and bridges will only worsen.

For the sake of motorists everywhere, Democrats and Republicans need a unified position on the highway trust fund — and they need it quickly.

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