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Kuster Introduces Bill To Prevent Highway Trust Fund From Running Dry

DRIVE Now Act would keep vital transportation projects going during the busy summer construction season

On the heels of her tour of the I-93 expansion project in Windham, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced a bill to ensure that the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent for the remainder of the fiscal year.  The Highway Trust Fund, which provides crucial funding to states for transportation and infrastructure projects like the I-93 expansion, is expected to drop below a critical funding threshold in July. 

During her tour of the expansion project, New Hampshire Department of Transportation officials and local leaders expressed their concern that should the Highway Trust Fund run dry, critical transportation projects across the state would be forced to come to a halt in the middle of the busy summer construction season due to lack of funding.  This would result not only in a loss of revenue for the state, but would also put the jobs of hardworking New Hampshire construction workers in jeopardy.  Kuster introduced the DRIVE Now Act to help ensure the funding will still be available for these transportation projects.

“Our transportation network is critical to growing our economy, creating jobs, and ensuring public safety in New Hampshire and all across the country,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “If Congress lets the Highway Trust Fund run out of money, then important projects like the I-93 expansion won’t get finished, leaving commuters in the lurch and hurting both New Hampshire businesses and the construction workers that rely on this funding for their livelihoods.  My bill will ensure that these vital projects can continue in the short-term, and I call on my fellow Members of Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund for the next six years.”

Kuster has been urging her fellow Members of Congress to address this crisis for months, most recently calling on House leadership to take immediate action.  Now, with only about two months left before the trust fund falls below critical levels, Kuster has introduced the DRIVE Now Act (Deficit Reduction for Infrastructure, Value, and Efficiency Now Act).  This legislation would make a one-time payment of $5 billion to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to pay for transportation projects for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014, which ends September 30, 2014.  At the same time, the bill would reduce the deficit by taking common sense steps to eliminate a costly and duplicative catfish inspection program, consolidate federal data centers, and force federal agencies to close long-empty bank accounts.  These combined actions would reduce spending by more than $10 billion, offsetting the $5 billion payment for the Highway Trust Fund, and further reducing the nation’s deficit.

The Highway Trust Fund, established in 1956, is the primary source of funding for highway and transit programs and projects on the state, local, and federal level.   The HTF is funded by a federal fuel tax of 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel fuel.  Declining revenues from these fuel taxes in recent years have led to funding shortfalls in the HTF, which has been supplemented by additional federal funds appropriated by Congress. 

Authorization for the HTF and other surface transportation programs, last reauthorized by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) in 2012, will expire on September 30, 2014.  The Obama Administration and House and Senate committees are working on legislation to reauthorize these programs for the next six years, but action is needed now to ensure that current projects continue and the HTF remains solvent for the remainder of the fiscal year. Kuster’s bill would provide this short-term solution for states that rely on these funds for ongoing construction projects, like the I-93 expansion.