By Ben Husch
It is crucial that Congress reauthorize the FAST Act, the current federal authorization for surface transportation, which expires Sept. 30, NCSL Executive Director Tim Storey told the winter meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Thursday in Washington, D.C.
A timely FAST Act reauthorization will bring certainty, predictability and sustainability to planning and building transportation infrastructure projects and networks, he said.
Storey highlighted how NCSL is advocating on behalf of states for the federal government to do its part in surface transportation—highways, roads, bridges—as well as the actual solutions being implemented by states.
Bill McBride, executive director of the National Governors Association (NGA), and Matt Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties (NACO), joined Storey at the meeting.
Storey also discussed the insolvency of the federal highway trust fund (HTF) and the need for Congress to enact a sustainable, user-based, revenue solution. The HTF faces an annual deficit of $16 billion and that number is only getting larger. Further, he emphasized why formula funding, as opposed to competitive grants, is key for states as well as the need for additional state flexibility within certain federal programs to better ensure efficient use of federal dollars.
While Storey said he remains hopeful Congress will act, he focused on how states are enacting their own solutions.
With more than half the states having increased taxes on gasoline, state legislators have a clear understanding of how important it is to provide increased investments in surface transportation. He also discussed how states are looking to the future by beginning to establish road usage charges and examining vehicle registration fees for hybrids and electric vehicles, which do not use gasoline and therefore would not contribute to state highway trust funds like gasoline power vehicles.
Storey noted that an efficient national transportation network is the responsibility of state, federal and local governments, and that it is a partnership that no one level of government can solve on its own.
Ben Husch is federal affairs counsel to NCSL's National Resources and Infrastructure Committee.