Strengthening the Highway Trust Fund: Short-Term Options

de Cerreño, A.L.C.
New York Transportation Journal, Spring/Summer 2003, Vol. 6, No. 3.

In existence since 1956, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is the source of all Federal highway funding and roughly four-fifths of all Federal transit funding. With budgetary firewalls in place since 1998 as a result of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, the Highway Trust Fund is integral to the long-term transportation planning of all 50 States. However, Congressional Budget Office forecasts show that at current baselines (i.e. spending at currently enacted levels with adjustments for inflation within the context of current tax policies), the HTF will be unable to keep up with national transportation needs.
How to meet these needs - which are projected to require an estimated average annual investment over the next 20 years of between $90.7 billion and $110.9 billion just to maintain the system and between $127.5 billion and $169.5 billion to improve it - is a source of considerable debate. Short-term options that should be seriously considered by both State and Federal governments are raising and indexing motor fuel taxes.