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Money for new roads could dry up

Posted By Hank Bonecutter On Saturday, February 11, 2012 @ 7:00 am In News | No Comments

Hank Bonecutter

Hank Bonecutter

Clarksville, TN – The need for new roads seems to be an ongoing problem for Clarksville.  Once we build one, we’ve outgrown it.

Case in point: the 101st Airborne Division Parkway, Warfield Boulevard, Tiny Town Road.

Now it appears, the money from the Federal Government may come to an end before the November election.  So if a politician promises “new roads” if elected, get him or her to do a quick “fact check.”

According to an analysis of Congressional Budget Office data by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials, The Highway Trust Fund, which finances U.S. road, bridge and mass-transit projects, may become insolvent.The fund, which reimburses states for transportation projects, would be unable to meet its financial obligations as soon as October.  The federal government could have to ration payments to the states to keep the fund solvent.

The fund’s revenue, from U.S. fuel taxes, has declined as cars have become more fuel-efficient and Americans are driving less because of higher gasoline prices, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  States pay for transportation projects upfront and then apply for reimbursement.

If the federal government rations payments, that would gradually halt highway projects, leaving hundreds of thousands of construction workers unemployed.  According to Brian Deery, director of transportation at Associated General Contractors of America, Congress needs to pass long-term legislation that raises the U.S. fuel tax, transfers money from the governments general fund or finds new revenue source to keep transportation projects going.

“This would have a real impact on the states if the federal government turns off the spigot to reimburse them for money they have already spent, Deery said.  This is the day of reckoning.  They have to come up with more money or make cuts.  There are no two ways about it.”

Clarksville/Montgomery County pays the third most money in fuel taxes to the State of Tennessee, yet is not in the top ten in dollars for road construction in the state.  The prospects of future road construction is up in the air, pending the federal governments handling of the Highway Trust Fund.

Surface-transportation legislation authorizing money for the Highway Trust Fund was last passed in 2005 and ran through 2009.  Highway funding has continued through a series of extensions, the most-recent of which expires March 31st.  The Highway Trust Fund has approached insolvency three times since 2008.  Congress has moved $34.5 billion to it from the general fund to keep it solvent and to pass extensions of the surface-transportation bill.

One more reason to keep our federal officials accountable when they ask for the vote.  The road ahead could be a bumpy one.


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