May 5, 2014 10:00 AM, EDT

Senate Panel to Review Cash-Strapped Highway Trust Fund May 6

House Takes Up Transportation Bill May 7

Senate tax writers will examine ways to keep the Highway Trust Fund’s road and transit programs funded before the account runs out of money later this summer.

The highway fund is dwindling because its reliance on excise taxes, such as levies on fuel purchases, no longer covers its financial demands. The fund is used to help states pay for road maintenance and improvements to bridges and tunnels. The Transportation Department says the fund is on a path to insolvency by late August.

The Senate Finance Committee will meet May 6 to examine funding options other than raising the national fuel tax to boost the trust fund. Witnesses are expected to share insights about public-private partnerships, tolling and charging drivers for the miles they travel as ways of generating revenue.

Several key Democrats have been calling on colleagues to approve a long-term funding measure to bolster the trust fund. Speaking on the floor of the Senate on May 1, Washington Democrat Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee warned that “for many states, this looming crisis is already a reality.”

On April 30, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, convened a round table with state and industry officials to explore approaches for improving freight movement.

“The expert input we collected will be invaluable to me and my colleagues in Congress as we work to find a bipartisan agreement on how to craft and pay for transportation legislation that invests in freight projects with a strong return on investment,” Carper said.

On the House side, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a fiscal 2015 transportation spending bill May 7.