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Transportation official urges action on road fund

Transportation official urges action on road fund

by Associated Press

 

TULSA – Oklahoma’s top transportation official has urged members of Congress to develop a permanent solution for funding for the federal highway fund, warning them they risk delaying projects if they don’t do so.  State Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said that uncertainty about the highway fund causes “distress” to states in their efforts to develop long-term plans for projects.  Earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed that the current transportation legislation, which expires in the fall, be immediately extended by 18 months, during which time the Highway Trust Fund could be revitalized.  “If this step is not taken, the trust fund will run out of money as soon as late August, and states will be in danger of losing the vital transportation funding they need and expect,” LaHood said.  LaHood said there should be more focus on investments in metropolitan areas and reaffirmed his opposition to a gas-tax increase. LaHood’s proposal likely derailed efforts to push a six-year, $450 billion proposal in the U.S. House, and Ridley conceded as much.  “Certainly it causes us a little distress when we don’t have the certainty moving forward,” Ridley said. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said he had discussed the issue with LaHood last week. Inhofe said he would propose using interest on funds transferred from the trust find during the 1990s to shore up the fund now.  “Last year, we were able to return the $8 billion to their rightful place, but we are still missing 10 years’ worth of interest,” Inhofe said, adding that repaying the interest would give the trust fund another $13 billion to $17 billion. On another matter, Ridley said it is too early to say whether Oklahoma might apply for federal stimulus money for high-speed rail projects. One of the proposed corridors for that $13 billion program includes Tulsa and Oklahoma City.  Ridley said state transportation officials still are reviewing the program’s details.  

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