US – As we approach the scariest time of the year, the horror that is the Highway Trust Fund once again rears its ugly head as lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have once again proposed yet another patch to temporarily neutralise this Frankenstein’s monster ahead of its expiration date on October 29. Extending authorisation for funding by three weeks, it would seem as though the House intends to use this short time to pass a multi-year fix to federal highway funding, though critics will say they certainly had more than enough time to sort out the details in the three months since the last patchwas passed.
Last week, the Transportation Committee approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act 2015, which will see an investment of $325 billion in six years to improve the country's crumbling infrastructure and rationalise programmes and projects to ensure maximum efficiency. If the deadline for action had been allowed to pass all work on the country’s highways and road furniture would stop with the inability to pay any contractors. Speaking on the decision to extend the fund with its now proposed 35th patch and the approval of the STRR act, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), said:
“I am confident that we can resolve the differences between the House and Senate measures and produce a final product that’s good for our Nation’s infrastructure. This extension will allow the highway bill process to continue moving forward without shutting down transportation programmes and projects across the country.
“The STRR Act is fiscally responsible and authorises federal surface transportation programs for six years. The provisions in this bill improve our Nation’s infrastructure, reform our surface transportation programmes, refocus these programs on national priorities, promote innovation to make our surface transportation system and programmes work better, maintain a strong commitment to safety, provide greater flexibility for states and local governments to address their needs, streamline the federal bureaucracy and accelerate project delivery, and facilitate the flow of freight and commerce.”
Back in July, when the last patch was ending, the Senate passed the DRIVE Act, a similar bill which set out $350 billion over six years but problems with regards to funding saw the House of Representatives steering away from that bill in favour of the House Transportation Committee to write its own bill. Once again the elephant in the room, the low price of gas, and American reluctance to balance the books with road users paying the bills for essential highway maintenance via a direct tax on fuel, is ignored leaving the administration with a monster it is unable to control effectively.