WASHINGTON D.C. From the perspective of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), there’s a growing sense of “alignment” in Congress regarding the need to provide sufficient and long-term funding for transportation at the federal level – a development the group feels is extremely positive considering the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) runs out of money in May.
“There’s a growing awareness on Capitol Hill and in Washington D.C. – from the White House to both sides of Congress – for a long-term transportation funding solution,” John Cox, ASHTO’s president and director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said during a speech at the group’s annual Washington Briefing meeting held here in the nation’s capital.
“The key players are aligned on transportation and a critical mass is growing – and that’s absolutely vital,” he explained. “Some states rely on federal funding for over 70% of their transportation needs. My state, Wyoming, depends on federal funding for 68% of our highway needs.”
Frederick "Bud" Wright, AASHTO’s executive director (seen at right), told Fleet Owner that the key now is to “tell transportation’s story” from the state perspective as “an element” of economic performance.
“We need to explain how the lack of long-term funding affects the ability to move people and goods efficiently and how that affects economic growth,” he stressed.
Wright added that such arguments have “gotten the attention of Congress” to the point that, unlike last year, there’s a “commitment” to long-term transportation funding at the federal level.
“The inability to act [on transportation funding needs] has implications for the country’s future; there’s a need for a long-term vision,” Wright emphasized.
“But we’re not going to be picky about how Congress chooses to provide those long-term funds,” he stressed. “They are looking at an array of options and we think they can get a six-year [surface transportation reauthorization] bill done without increasing the gas tax. Because we know gas taxes are extremely politically volatile.”