Skip to content

ASA Advocates for Increasing the Highway Trust Fund

This week on Capitol Hill, ASA, along with the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), carried the following message regarding the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to members of Congress and their congressional staff.

          The HTF, established in 1956 to fund the construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System, collects federal motor fuels taxes and heavy truck fees derived from road users that lawmakers use to invest in the nation’s surface transportation network. The historically reliable revenue streams into the HTF allow states and the construction industry the certainty necessary to plan for large-scale, multi-year programs of work. Congress and multiple administrations have wisely chosen to continue increasing investments in the surface transportation programs supported by HTF revenues. However, they have done so without increasing federal motor fuels tax rates since 1993, leaving existing HTF user fee revenues unable to support current levels of surface transportation spending. The HTF has suffered seven separate revenue shortfalls since 2008, leading to the transfer of over $270 billion from the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury to the HTF. These revenue shortfalls have created temporary uncertainty for state transportation officials, leading to project cancellations and delays. 

           Without increasing existing user fee rates, or the creation of new revenue streams, the HTF cash flow disparity will continue to grow in the coming years, exacerbated by improved vehicle fleet fuel efficiency. To cover core surface transportation program outlays during the next five-year surface transportation law at funding levels commensurate to those authorized in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the HTF will need an additional $150 billion. When the supplemental IIJA highway, bridge and public transit programs that were paid for out of the General Fund are added, the total additional resources needed to sustain overall investment levels increases to $220 billion.

            The magnitude of the looming HTF crisis and the potential impact of the resulting uncertainty on state transportation improvement plans reinforces the need for proactive congressional action. We urge all members of Congress to:

  • Act now to preserve the HTF and user pays system. Any opportunity to tackle debt ceilings, changes to the tax code or the solvency of other government trust funds should be considered opportunities to address the long-term solvency of the HTF
  • Reject all efforts to reduce or eliminate HTF user fees. Efforts exist in Congress to abolish or alter the user fee system. Any changes must ensure a sustainable revenue source for the HTF. Any efforts to promote environmentally friendly transportation should be pursued in ways that do not further compromise the funding base for essential infrastructure maintenance and development.

          A permanent, dedicated, user-based HTF revenue stream, supplemented with other federal resources, will be necessary to continue making the transportation investments advocated for by President Biden and Congress. Congress should not wait until the current law expires to address this issue and instead use any opportunity between now and then to solve this growing problem.