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May 11, 2017 1:50 PM, EDT

More Than 100 Members of Congress Call for Highway Trust Fund Fix

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

With more than 100 colleagues joining him in urging the tax policy committee to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund this year, the leader of the subcommittee on highways is continuing to push for sustainable funding for infrastructure projects as Congress turns its attention to reforming tax policy.

“The best thing we can do for this country’s freight network is inject long-term solvency to the Highway Trust Fund. After the highway bill expires in 2020, there is no certainty, no guaranteed funding and no continuity — and that negatively affects long-term investment in our infrastructure,” Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), told Transport Topics this week.

State departments of transportation, the chairman added, need to plan long term for projects that often require significant federal backing. As he put it, “It needs to be clear just how important [Highway Trust Fund] solvency is to this country — and I intend to highlight that during those discussions.”

Last month, Graves and his subcommittee’s ranking member, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), wrote the leaders of the Ways and Means tax-writing committee to address the trust fund’s looming shortfall in about three years.

“If states are unable to rely on timely reimbursements from the [Highway Trust Fund] for work performed, projects will be halted, improvements to road safety and congestion relief will be jeopardized, and America’s infrastructure will fall further behind the rest of the world. This would put our businesses, and the American worker, at a significant disadvantage in the competitive global economy,” Graves and Norton wrote.

“Not only do our roads, bridges, and public transportation facilities depend on a positive, long-term solution, but the American economy does as well,” the lawmakers added.

Graves, Norton and the more than 100 colleagues supporting their push have been sounding the alarm on the need to fix the fund before the five-year FAST Act highway law expires in 2020. That law was the first long-term infrastructure and transportation measure Congress passed in more than 10 years.

After advancing an alternative to former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, House Republican leaders said they plan to turn their attention to tax reform.

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and ranking member Richard Neal (D-Mass.) intend to overhaul the U.S. tax code in accordance with President Donald Trump’s vision for providing tax benefits for small businesses and infrastructure construction firms.

The trust fund is projected to be inoperable in about three years. Revenue from federal diesel and gas fuel is no longer sufficient to meet the fund’s obligations to help states pay for infrastructure projects.

Trump has repeatedly called on Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan while not specifying how to come up with the money.