July 28, 2015

The U.S. Highway Trust Fund (HTF), the source of revenue for the interstate highway system and other federal-aid highway programs in the United States is set to expire on July 31. The Highway Trust Fund, which was created by the U.S. Congress and the Highway Revenue Act of 1956, is in danger of not being re-authorized by the U.S. government for additional funding. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2013 America's Infrastructure Report Card on roads and public transit both received a grade of D and overall U.S. infrastructure receiving a grade of D+.

According to the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the principal purpose of the HTF was to finance the construction of the Interstate highway system, and its creators' original intention was to terminate the fund when that effort was accomplished. However, the fund has since morphed into an ongoing method of financing a broad range of federal transportation programs and now comprises both a highway account and a mass transit account. Over the years, the structure of the taxes supporting the fund and the rules governing its expenditures and administration have changed, sometimes significantly.

Among the most significant changes were a series of increases to tax levels and transfers to the fund (major increases occurred in 1959, 1961, 1966, 1982, and 1997), the imposition of obligation limits in 1974, and the restoration of the user fee concept in 1998. The congressional authorizing acts that provided for these and other revisions to the fund's funding levels and administrative procedures from 1956 to 2003 are documented. The fund's history is a particularly topical subject because Congress continues to address extensions to the fund, the fund's supporting revenues, and the transportation programs it finances.

According to ASCE, the HTF is the national bank account for roads, bridges and transit that reimburses states for eligible projects completed. Inaction by the U.S. Congress has put the HTF in jeopardy. The U.S. government needs to act quickly to generate sustainable revenue for the HTF – an investment according to ASCE that is vital to the health of the U.S. economy. ASCE advocates that U.S. Congress fix the Highway Trust Fund by the July 31 deadline. To support this effort, ASCE and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) produced a short commercial which has been airing in U.S. television markets.

The HTF, which pays for improvements and construction of roads, bridges, and transit systems, is funded by the U.S. federal gasoline tax, currently 18.4 cents a gallon. The tax has not been raised since 1993, and the revenues have not kept pace with system needs. While the price of other household goods such as food items and vehicles have nearly doubled in price since 1993, the U.S. transportation system is utilizing 1993 dollars.

>Help Fix the Highway Trust Fund: Urge congressional leaders now to fix the Highway Trust Fund

>Sign the Petition to Fix the Highway Trust Fund Now

>To share the ASCE and ARTBA message: Fix the nation's infrastructure