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PD Editorial: A long road ahead for highway fund

Saving the federal Highway Trust Fund from going bankrupt — freezing thousands of roadway projects and leaving an estimated 800,000 workers out of a job — is the least that Congress can do.

And the House of Representatives did exactly that last week — the least it could do.

It’s what the nation has come to expect from a Congress that is on course to being one of the least productive and responsive in memory.

The House on Tuesday voted 367-55 to approve an $11.8 billion stop-gap measure that addresses near-term needs but simply ensures the highway trust fund will be back on the verge of insolvency next May, just in time for summer travel.

What the nation really needed was for Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill that includes a long-needed boost in the federal gas tax to adequately meet the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Instead, the Republican-controlled House approved a short-term measure full of gimmicks like tapping into tax receipts from corporate pension plans and using money intended for such things as fixing underground tanks at old gas stations.

The Senate has yet to vote on a similar bill, but it no doubt will.

If not, faced with depleted coffers, the Transportation Department has said that starting on Aug. 1 it would cut construction spending by 28 percent, a move that would force states that are dependent on federal funding for road work to put on hold more than 100,000 roadway projects across the nation.

The situation is dire enough that even President Barack Obama has supported the stop-gap measure. But nobody should confuse this with good government.

The main problem is that the nation has changed significantly since the highway trust fund was established in 1953 as part of the interstate highway system — and so have our driving habits.


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