Graves stresses need for long-term fix to highway funding at hearing

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) convened a hearing on Wednesday to glean feedback about the nation’s highway and transit needs from stakeholders to help shape federal surface transportation policy.

Graves, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, said a modern transportation infrastructure will help America compete globally, support economic development and create jobs.

Transportation industry experts stressed the need to sustainably fund the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). “Enacting a long-term solution for the HTF is a critical component to ensuring that we can address our infrastructure needs both in rural and urban communities,” Graves said.

The HTF, which is primarily funded through federal excise taxes on motor fuels, hasn’t been adjusted since 1993. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the fund will be unable to meet its obligations after fiscal year 2020, with a 10-year shortfall projected to total $138 billion.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in an opening statement at the hearing: “To me, a 21st Century infrastructure means more local jobs for our communities; getting people, goods, products, and crops where they need to go more efficiently and at less cost; and ensuring that America is competitive.”

Patrick McKenna, the director at the Missouri Department of Transportation, testified on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials that new transportation plans should reflect rural needs, and the HTF should be secured with long-term revenue solutions.

“I want to thank Congressman Graves for the opportunity to provide the Missouri and all state DOT perspective on transportation investment needs,” McKenna said. “His subcommittee will play a vital role building a 21st century infrastructure system in America and it is an honor to represent the Missouri Department of Transportation and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at the hearing.”

Associated Industries of Missouri President and CEO Ray McCarty, speaking on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers, also called for a reliable, user-based revenue stream and noted that rural and metropolitan transportation networks are equally important to manufacturers.

“Manufacturers believe federal leadership and funding are needed to address bottlenecks in both rural and metropolitan areas that will improve the system-wide movement of freight throughout this country,” McCarty said. “Addressing the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund should be a pillar of a 21st Century infrastructure proposal.”

The subcommittee heard testimony about the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Enacted in 2015, the bill reauthorized federal surface transportation programs through 2020 and outlined reforms geared to address priorities, promote innovation and to enhance safety.

“Since passage of the FAST Act, building consensus on a solution to fund surface transportation programs has been a central priority of mine and of this committee,” Graves said in opening remarks at the hearing. “Providing federal funding certainty for our non-federal partners is vital to planning and building infrastructure for the 21st century.”

Shuster agreed that fixing the HTF would help non-federal partners like state departments of transportation make critical investments in the surface transportation system.

According to a background memo on the hearing from the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, more work is needed to ensure the nation can meet its future transportation needs with anticipated population growth and greater demand for freight transportation.

“This is a bipartisan issue and I look forward to working constructively with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, as well as our stakeholders, to ensure we achieve this goal,” Graves said.