Federal highway funds running low, lawmakers react

WASHINGTON – It is crunch time for Congress, as critical federal transportation funding is set to expire soon. But recently, the House passed a short-term bill that will supply funding for construction projects until next May.

“I’m glad to support this band-aid, but we need to continue to work for a long-term solution,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY).

The House version of the bill adds 11 billion dollars to the Highway Trust Fund, but only lasts about 10 months, putting members of Congress in a similar situation next year. Reed, however, said a short-term solution is better than nothing.

“We’re going to take that time,” Reed said. “We’ve got commitments of the chairman from both transportation and ways and means to work with us for a long-term solution and that’s what we need to do.”

Even though the House of Representatives passed a short-term extension, the Senate has not voted on the matter.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said a short-term extension is not ideal for the American people.

“This is no way to do business,” Toomey said. “We should do long-term highway funding legislation, because transportation infrastructure is a really important, legitimate government expenditure.”

And, Toomey has an idea of how to raise money for a more long-term solution.

“When we build new roads, new bridges, bypasses, add lanes, when we add capacity,” he said, “that ought to be tolled.”

Sen. Bob Casey said he agrees that a long-term solution is better for the entire country.

“Preferably six years,” Casey said, when asked how long-term he would like to see the bill. “So that we can give states and business and communities the certainty that they should have.”

And, if the Senate does pass a short-term fix, Casey said that is only the first step in what needs to be done.

“If that happens, that’s good news,” Casey said. “But, we can’t wait until April or May of 2015 to work on a longer bill.”

Senators haven’t said yet when they plan to vote on a short-term extension, but they have said they want to pass a bill before the August recess.

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