Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood knows a thing or two about the highway-reauthorization process. It’s usually not pretty, and as MAP-21 reaches its expiration date, LaHood believes Congress is not going to attempt to dab lipstick on a pig.
“Little if any progress will be made on any legislation that is even remotely controversial,” he said during a recent conference call. “In light of that, the existing transportation bill will likely extend beyond the end of the current fiscal year, and with the Highway Trust Fund likely to be fully drained by the end of August, Congress will most likely partially fund transportation projects out of the general fund from that point forward.”
With elections approaching in November, highway funding falls in the “remotely controversial” category LaHood is referring to, dashing any hopes of a long-term bill in 2014. However, when Congress is ready to take on the funding conundrum, LaHood still believes an increase in the federal gas tax is the way to go in the short term. Other funding strategies also should be included in the measure, like a vehicle-miles tax, increased tolling, public-private partnerships, TIFIA loans and TIGER grants.
LaHood also urged those in Washington to create this long-term solution as soon as possible following a winter that has blistered pavements and bridges across the country.
“The harsh winter, in many regions of the U.S., has left potholed highways everywhere and the infrastructure of the U.S. may have never been in worse shape. A near-term effort will have to be mounted just to restore functionality of the highway network.”