By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA

Facing the Sept. 30 expiration of the FAST Act surface transportation law, members of Congress are starting to publicly address how to raise revenue to pay for the massive investments needed to maintain and rebuild America’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure.

Raising the gas tax only is “not politically possible” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said at a Feb. 26 conference in Washington, D.C.

He suggested the Highway Trust Fund needs to be replenished by a new 401 (k)-style revenue stream that includes a portfolio of diverse, multiple sources, including Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) fees, gas tax, and excise fee on electric vehicles.

“Not one of them on their own is going to pass Congress,” Davis told the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “When we talk VMT vs. gas tax, we get nowhere.”

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) repeated his willingness to increase the federal gas tax for the first time since 1993, primarily through indexing it to inflation. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) also said Congress should fix the HTF in three steps: raise the gas tax, index it to inflation, and then find an alternative, like VMT.

Senate Republicans and Democrats are considering several ways to pay for infrastructure improvements, including indexing the gas tax and a new mileage fee on trucking.

In July, the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee unanimously passed S. 2302, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, which authorizes $287 billion over five years for federal highway programs, an increase of over 27 percent from FAST Act levels. But it has yet to pass the full Senate and the House has not introduced companion legislation.

With the debate over how to pay for investments in transportation infrastructure heating up in the Nation’s Capital, ARTBA members should be sure to attend the May 12-14 Federal Issues Program (FIP) and Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Fly-In. Register now.