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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

CBO: Highway Trust Fund would need $3 billion through Sept. 30

The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) would need $3 billion to meet its obligations through Sept. 30, the end of federal fiscal-year 2015, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated last week.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), who is ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, the CBO said that that amount would be necessary if Congress decides to pass another extension to federal transportation funding programs from the current deadline of July 31 to the fiscal year end. Of that amount, about $2 billion would be needed for highways and less than $1 billion for the HTF's  mass transit account.

If Congress decides to extend the HTF funding until Dec. 31, the fund would need roughly $8 billion to maintain a balance that would allow the U.S. Department of Transportation to make payments out of the fund "in a timely fashion."

However, if the fund is extended for six years, shortfall projections are more uncertain than for shorter periods, said the CBO, which makes its baseline projections for HTF on a fiscal-year basis.

"Because there is seasonality to spending for highway and transit projects, outlays for those programs are highest in the summer months and the fourth quarter of the fiscal year. Considering the seasonality in highway spending, CBO projects that the cumulative shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund would be between $85 billion and $90 billion by May of 2021," the letter stated.

The letter further warned that many factors — weather-related construction delays, gas prices and the impact of federal, state and local policies — can impact CBO projections.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/1/2015