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Federal Highway Trust Fund is a bust

Federal Highway Trust Fund is a bust

by Robert McDowell

It seems that the proverbial “chickens have come home to roost” with Congress and its mismanagement (squandering) of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

For a number of years, the Congress, mostly under Democrat control, has diverted money from this fund away from highway uses and into other “transportation” and pork projects.

These have included light rail for cities such as Denver and Phoenix, hiking trails in wilderness areas, high-speed rail projects, bridge projects for individual benefit and whatever other non-highway designations the individual members can dream up in their insatiable quest for more power and re-election.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund was established in the 1950s during the administration of President Eisenhower as a means to finance the Interstate Highway System.

It was funded by a nationwide gasoline tax that now approaches or exceeds 20 cents per gallon. The funding for the Interstate roads was 90 percent federal and 10 percent state, with the Federal Department of Transportation being given oversite on alignment, design and construction.

The stated need was for military roads in case of national emergency to supplement the railroads. It seems abominable to me that these funds have been diverted to non-road uses. It is not allowed in the Constitution.

At the beginning of June this year, Senator Inhofe warned that there was a danger that the trust fund would be broke by August. He warned that up to $80 million in road projects in Oklahoma would have to be canceled and that some already under construction could be delayed.

At that time, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation confirmed this assessment of the situation and complained that FDOT people tended to not give them notice when there would be a looming shortfall.

Inhofe also called for quick action by Congress to fix the funding problem.

At one time, in my memory, this fund had billions of dollars in it and they were not all being budgeted. This allowed for the raids by pork barrel politicians in Congress for other than highway purposes. A story stated that the current transportation funding bill would expire this fall.

Again on September 29, a story carried an Inhofe warning that the deadline for renewing the highway funding bill was imminent. That story quoted Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley as saying a $40 million impact would become $135 million. Ridley said, “It really makes it difficult for us to do our job.”

Further, Inhofe is quoted as saying that transportation infrastructure is one of the best and quickest forms of stimulus spending and that he could not understand the feet dragging on this with the massive stimulus bill being passed. The story implies that the fault lies in the House, under the speakership of Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, who must have her own agenda for federal spending.

Then a day or so later, a story indicated that ODOT would have to cut a $53.5 million contract letting in November to $6.2 million because of the withdrawing of funds by FDOT after the Congress only voted a 30-day extension of the transportation bill.

What would be left would be a few wholly state funded projects in three counties and some small stimulus projects.

Unfortunately, we in Oklahoma have only seven of the 535 members of Congress and they all seem to be more sensible. The problems lie with the voters in other states that continue to elect those corrupt and power mad members who are now in control.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. andrew zahler wrote:
Both parties betrayed the trust of the American people by allowing the Highway Trust Fund to be used as giant slush fund for political purposes. They abused their authority by allowing to be used for non-highway purposes. ajz

Thu, May 15, 2014 @ 9:39 PM

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