Thursday, June 25, 2009

DOT makes case for emergency highway/transit funding

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Asserting that "there is simply not enough money to do what we need to do," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a Congressional hearing Thursday that around $20 billion will be required through early 2011 to cover a shortfall in funding for highway and transit construction projects.

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"The Obama Administration has a difficult problem--a system that can no longer pay for itself," LaHood (photo at left) told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He pointed out that a primary source of funding has shrunk with the decline of fuel tax revenue. LaHood said the highway/transit trust find could be running near empty sometime in August.

LaHood believes an 18-month extension of the current funding law, which expires this fall, would give Congress time to draft a long-term measure with more reliable finding sources.

The Administration's proposal is opposed by Democratic members of the House Transportation Committee, who are supporting a six-year reauthorization of the expiring law that would increase funding by 40% over that period to $500 billion. They fear the proposed 28-month extension at current funding levels would delay a much-needed increase.