Better Roads

March 2014

Better Roads Digital Magazine

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W e're in trouble – big trouble – and it's going to be hard to fi nd a way out. It's not news to anyone in the transportation construction industry that the nation's Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is in peril. So far, we've put on Band-Aids to scrape by and keep things functioning. But this isn't just a scratch. We're hemorrhaging, and if we don't use a "tourniquet," the nation's infrastructure system is going to bleed to death. That tourniquet is a new source of revenue. Fixing the HTF without any new revenue would require the equivalent of Congress passing and the president signing a 2013-level Murray-Ryan budget deal every year just to maintain current highway and transit program investments, says Pete Ruane, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), to a Senate panel last month. (The Act is the bipartisan compromise reached by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.) The HTF will not be able to support any investments in new projects after September. A recent Congressional Budget Offi ce (CBO) report found an average of $16.3 billion is needed each year to preserve the current transportation program. By comparison, according to ARTBA, during a two-year period, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 reallocates resources to increase the no-defense discretionary spending cap by about $16 billion per year. Ruane cautioned the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee that a "painful scenario" is ahead of us. If the HTF shortfall isn't addressed, he said the more than 12,000 highway bridge and safety capital projects throughout the nation could be lost. (Go to to see a video from Ruane.) In 2015, the HTF highway account will have insuffi cient revenues to meet its obligations, resulting in steadily accumulating shortfalls, according to the CBO report. Under current law, the HTF cannot incur negative balances and has no authority to borrow additional funds. However, following the rules in the Defi cit Control Act of 1985, CBO's baseline for highway spending incorporates the assumption that obligations incurred by the Highway Trust Fund will be paid in full. The U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated it needs at least $4 billion in cash balances available in the highway account and at least $1 billion in the transit account to meet obligations as they are due, the CBO report notes. This means, according to the CBO's baseline projections, the highway account may have to delay some of its payments until the latter part of 2014. The inadequate revenue is like watching our nation's infrastructure bleed out. As the nation continues in a slow economic recovery, we need to ensure the HTF remains solvent. To avoid this "painful" scenario, please talk to your Congressman or Congresswomen and let him or her know not only does your job depends on this, but also the nation's health. Y by Tina Grady Barbaccia, Editor-At-Large Better Roads March 2014 3 Can We Stop a 'Painful' Transportation Situation? Editorial Editor-At-Large: Tina Grady Barbaccia Editorial Director: Marcia Gruver Doyle Online Editor: Wayne Grayson Online Managing Editor: Amanda Bayhi Production Editor: Lauren Heartsill Dowdle Editor Emeritus: Kirk Landers Truck Editor: Jack Roberts Construction Editors: Tom Jackson, Tom Kuennen, Dan Brown Design & Production Art Director: Sandy Turner, Jr. Production Designer: Timothy Smith Advertising Production Manager: Linda Hapner Construction Media Senior VP of Market Development, Construction Media: Dan Tidwell VP of Sales, Construction Media: Joe Donald Corporate Chairman/CEO: Mike Reilly President: Brent Reilly Chief Process Offi cer: Shane Elmore Chief Administration Offi cer: David Wright Senior Vice President, Sales: Scott Miller Senior Vice President, Editorial and Research: Linda Longton Vice President of Events: Alan Sims Vice President, Audience Development: Stacy McCants Vice President, Digital Services: Nick Reid Director of Marketing: Julie Arsenault 3200 Rice Mine Rd NE Tuscaloosa, AL 35406 800-633-5953 For change of address and other subscription inquiries, please contact: Better Roads TM magazine, (ISSN 0006-0208) founded in 1931 by Alden F. Perrin, is published monthly by Randall-Reilly Publishing Company, LLC. © 2014. Executive and Administrative offices, 3200 Rice Mine Rd. N.E., Tuscaloosa, AL 35406. Qualified subscriptions solicited exclusively from governmental road agencies, contractors, consultants, research organiza- tions, and equipment and materials suppliers. Single copy price $5.00 in U.S. and Canada. Subscription rate for individuals qualified in U.S. and Canada $24.95. Foreign $105.00. Special group rates to companies quali- fied in quantities over five names. We assume no responsibility for the va- lidity of claims of manufacturers in any advertisement or editorial product information or literature offered by them. Publisher reserves the right to refuse non-qualified subscriptions. Periodical circulation postage paid at Tuscaloosa, Alabama and additional entries. All rights reserved. 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