The chairman of the subcommittee on highways in the House said he is optimistic Congress will agree on a long-term funding fix for infrastructure projects before a highway law expires in 2020.
“I’m certainly hopeful that we’re going to get it done before we get to that point,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), speaking to Transport Topics on Sept. 28, nearly a week after hosting a roundtable with freight executives on Capitol Hill. “Our end goal is to have that done in the next few years, and I think we owe that to the trucking industry and freight industry overall.”
Achieving the elusive long-term funding fix for transportation programs is realistic, Graves said, and he assured that his colleagues are committed to proposing a sustainable funding plan over the next few years. Congress has until the five-year FAST Act highway law expires to resolve the transportation funding issue. Enacted in 2015, the law relies on nontraditional funding sources to keep highway programs functioning.
“We have to come up with some solutions and quit kicking that can down the road. And there’s going to be a lot of work involved with that. And we’re also going to be looking to the industry too to come up with their thoughts and ideas in terms of what they would like to see,” Graves added. “I want to make this a very inclusive process. I want to hear from everybody as we move forward.”
Raising fuel taxes had been Congress’ traditional way of maintaining the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, the account used to help pay for national roadway projects. But for the past two decades, raising taxes on fuel became increasingly unpopular for the majority of members of Congress. That’s why Graves stressed he also would consider a vehicle miles traveled fee on drivers, tolling roads and partnering with private investors to pay for highways and bridges.
Graves’ subcommittee has jurisdiction over the surface transportation network. The Ways and Means Committee in the House has jurisdiction over the trust fund.