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Policy Statement 434 - Transportation Trust Funds

 

Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on April 13, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018

Policy  

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the concept of transportation trust funds, with revenues derived from user-based fees to provide a consistent, dedicated source of funding transportation system improvements. Furthermore, ASCE recommends these funds be used only for their intended purposes by removing them from the unified federal budget or by other legislative means. 

Trust fund assets should be used to the maximum practical extent to fund transportation improvements. ASCE supports the continued use of the motor fuels tax as a strong revenue source for surface transportation trust funds while other revenue options continue to progress.

Issue

Individuals and industries that use the nation's highways, airports and waterways pay direct user fees to the federal government to support transportation improvement programs. These funds constitute four separate trust funds; i.e. highways, airports, harbors and waterways. Some of these trust fund balances have been included as an offset in the unified federal budget, thus masking the true size of the federal deficit. Trust funds should only be used for their intended purpose. 

Providing a sustainable, long-term solution for transportation infrastructure funding is critical. Budgetary firewalls instituted in Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act are intended to ensure the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) meets obligations through 2020. The application of such firewalls should continue to be an option in all future highway and transit transportation trust fund authorization bills but securing a strong, continuous revenue source must be the key focus. Spending guarantees and supporting mechanisms should also continue to be used to protect transportation trust funds to help ensure that collected funds are invested directly in transportation infrastructure.

Rationale

There is an urgent need for capital improvements in all of the nation's transportation systems as reflected in ASCE's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. These needs have been clearly identified and documented in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Conditions and Performance Report, and other sources. A modern, adequate transportation system utilizing all modes is absolutely necessary to maintain our expanding economy. 

The ASCE Report Failure to Act - Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America's Economic Future, showed that in 2015, deficiencies in America's roads, bridges, and transit systems cost American households and businesses roughly $147 billion, including approximately $109 billion in vehicle operating costs, $36 billion in delays in travel time, $1.4 billion in safety costs, and $700 million in environmental costs.

Without increased investment, by 2025, the nation will have lost almost $3.9 trillion in GDP and have lost 2.5 million jobs which will negatively impact our highways, airports, harbors and waterways. 

ASCE Policy Statement 434  
First Approved in 1994   


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