Highway Trust Fund Losing Steam Fast

According to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), the U.S. Department of Transportation updated its monthly snapshot projection for when the Highway Trust Fund will have to slow payouts to states for road and bridge projects, and the situation gets worse with each report.  

The released estimates now say the highway account will dip below $4 billion in July, which is the amount needed to meet funding obligations as they are due. The previous month’s report from DOT projected a breach of the $4 billion mark in mid-August.  

Based on the new numbers, DOT officials will likely begin slowing HTF outlays from the highway account as early as June to keep above the minimum threshold and avoid insolvency.

What this means for members of Congress is that the deadline for acting on a new surface transportation reauthorization is not when MAP-21 expires on Sept. 30, but much earlier this spring and summer.  

A flurry of activity is expected this spring as the administration plans to send its own version of a bill to Congress in April while Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairs of the Senate and House transportation committees respectively, have said they will unveil their draft bills before the summer.  

But the new DOT numbers for the HTF may force Congress to come up with a short-term extension that will keep the highway account funded until a reauthorization bill can be passed. In fact, Shuster said last week that conversations regarding contingencies have already begun, NSSGA said.

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