What Wasn’t in This Week’s Highway Trust Fund Patch

Transportation's make-or-break week in Washington has ended with a funding face-off postponed until fall, thanks to Senate passage of a short-term, $7 billion rescue for the nation's highway trust fund.

menendez.jpgSen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (Photo: PatersonOnline)
The trust fund patch, designed to keep U.S. DOT dollars flowing to local road projects until September 30, keeps alive House transport committee chairman Jim Oberstar's (D-MN) dogged quest for a long-term infrastructure bill.

But Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) pointed out last night, the patch is missing money for transit.

Menendez helped negotiate $4.8 billion for the dwindling trust fund's transit account -- which is in less trouble than the highway portion, but headed for insolvency by 2012 -- as part of a broader Senate pact to extend current law for 18 months.

Menendez's statement signals that transit is not without supporters heading into September, but it remains to be seen whether any future highway trust fund fix would give a share of new money to transit.

Under current law, the trust fund's transit account receives 2.86 cents of the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax, with the rest of the revenue going to road programs. That share accounts for about 80 percent of Washington's total investment in transit, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Menendez's full statement on the status of the trust fund patch:

We cannot let the highway trust fund run dry, or else we face job losses, stalled projects and another hit to our economy. That being said, we need to ensure going forward that the customary 80 percent-20 percent ratio of funding for the highway and transit trust funds is upheld.

Transit holds the potential to create jobs, lower energy costs, strengthen national security and clean the air we breathe while saving commuters time and money. It should be a key part of not only our economic recovery but of the foundation for economic security in the 21st Century. I look forward to working toward a robust infusion of funding for the mass transit account.