By Lauren Schapker, vice president, legislative affairs, ARTBA
The looming shortfall in Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues was highlighted during a Sept. 11 hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
The “Pricing and Technology Strategies to Address Congestion on and Financing of America’s Roads” hearing featured testimony from witnesses representing state and local entities exploring tolling or congestion pricing to reduce demands on transportation systems. Members of both parties agreed that increased investment is needed to relieve congestion and improve quality of life, but there was little consensus on a revenue mechanism.
Tolling was highlighted as a proven way to raise revenue and relieve congestion, but equity concerns, as well as urban/rural divides, were raised as impediments to implementation. Instead, some lawmakers pointed to increasing the gas and diesel taxes as a more palatable option for raising revenue at the federal level as well as exploring how to make electric vehicle owners pay their fair share for using the nation’s roads and bridges.
Subcommittee Chairman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) reminded the committee members that states have shown leadership by increasing their gas taxes and it is past time for Congress to step up. Her comments were reinforced by Congressman Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), who detailed his experience of working to pass a motor fuels user fee increase as a state legislator. He emphasized the importance of making clear why increased investment is needed.
While the hearing brought more attention to the need for a long-term HTF fix, the House Ways & Means Committee is ultimately the responsibility for developing a solution. And while the Senate July 29 began the reauthorization process with a mark-up of highway policy at the committee level, significant House movement beyond committee hearings has yet to surface.
ARTBA staff continues to work with legislators in the House and the Senate to ensure enactment of a new surface transportation law well before the Sept. 30, 2020, expiration of the FAST Act.