by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is forecasting that the six-year transportation bill would require almost $100 billion in new revenue to maintain current levels of federal road and transit spending.
The current surface transportation bill, which included about $54 billion in infrastructure spending per year, is scheduled to expire in September. The measure was funded in part by $35 billion per year that is generated by the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, which has traditionally been the main source Congress uses to pay for transportation projects.
Lawmakers used revenue from other areas of the federal budget to close the gap, but only came up with enough funding to last two years. Advocates said the expiring 2012 bill was not long enough and contained barely enough money to scratch the surface of the nation’s infrastructure needs.
The Department of Transportation has projected the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in its current construction in September.
Transportation leaders in both chambers of Congress have said they want to pass a longer-term transportation bill than they were able to cobble together in 2012 this year. Infrastructure advocates have pushed them to consider new funding sources, liking raising the gas tax for the first time since 1993, and return to a five- or six-year measure similar to previous transportation bills.
The CBO said the shortfall that was papered over in 2012 will start at $13 billion in 2015 if the fund is left with only gas tax revenue at current levels. The deficit is projected to grow to $95 billion by 2020, when a potential six-year deal would expire
The CBO forecast goes as far out as 2024, when the agency says the shortfall in transportation funding will reach $172 billion without congressional action.