July 8, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—So warns the president of the Transportation Trades Department, Edward Wytkind. He recently penned a commentary about what are the consequences if Congress fails to authorize new legislation that doesn’t just simply provide funding that keeps up with inflation but requires billions in new money to keep up with the country’s growing transportation needs.
Mr. Wytkind welcomed the bi-partisan six-year transportation bill crafted by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-California) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) last month that would boost overall spending on U.S. roads, bridges and mass transit.
“During an unfortunate era in Washington defined by inaction and indecision, it felt like a breath of fresh air when the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported out a multi-year highway title as part of the rewrite of the surface transportation bill,” said Wytkind.
Congress has been unable, for ideological reasons, to pass a multi-year transportation fund for several years now, denying states and localities the ability to plan long-term transportation projects.
Indeed, Amtrak’s CEO Joseph Boardman has repeatedly said in public that Amtrak can’t go forward with major construction projects such as a new trans-Hudson tunnel or a new Baltimore-Potomac Tunnel because it doesn’t know if the money would be available to complete them.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has posted on its website a “Highway Trust Fund Ticker” where two graphs—one for highway funding and the other for mass transit funding—show the gradual depletion of funds. The Department warns that it would have to implement “cash management procedures” if the funds aren’t replenished by July 31.
“If the Department implements the procedures, reimbursements to states for infrastructure work will be limited to the available cash in the Trust Fund. Additionally, the Department would distribute incoming funds in proportion to each state’s federal formula apportionment in the fiscal year.”
Mr. Wytkind says this is no way to run a federal transportation program.
“The EPW Committee has worked its will with one hand tied behind its back. Absent a game-changing strategy that features a legitimate, bi-partisan pay-for such as a fuel user-fee increase, however, our surface transportation system will continue to fall apart [and lag behind Europe and Asia], thus undermining economic and job growth,” Wytkind said.