Federal Transportation

May 26, 2015

Nearly everyone in Washington acknowledges the importance of federal transportation funding; they just can’t agree on how exactly to do it or from where the money should come.

As the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission continues to position itself as a leader in creating a world-class transportation system for Central Ohio, advocating for long-term federal funding that serves all modes of transportation – as well as seeking additional funding mechanisms – continues to be at the top of MORPC’s public policy agenda. MORPC Executive Director William Murdock recently reiterated this position in a letter to the entire congressional delegation that serves our 15-county region.

States like Ohio are dependent on the federal dollars, in addition to state and local money, to pay for surface transportation projects. Uncertainty in the level of federal funding only makes it harder to plan for the future. With Congress up against the pressure of current transportation funds expiring May 31st and the Highway Trust Fund running out of money shortly thereafter, the House and Senate passed another short-term extension, but it only keeps the funding stream alive for two additional months.

Many had hoped that Congress would come to an agreement to extend the funding through the end of the 2015 calendar year. However, coming to a bipartisan consensus on where the roughly $11 billion needed for such an extension would come from proved too difficult of a challenge while up against a deadline. Still, lawmakers from both parties have their sights set on passing a six-year transportation funding bill in the future – likely to cost near $500 billion.

President Obama, who earlier this year proposed his own transportation bill, is expected to sign the short-term bill before the current May 31st deadline.

The traditional source of federal transportation funding has been through the federal gas tax, which hasn’t been increased since 1993. With changing driving habits and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, the tax has only brought in roughly $34 billion of the $50 billion being spent on transportation projects each year. It’s a gap that Congress consistently has had to fill through temporary, short-term fixes.

We remain hopeful that a six-year bill will come to fruition over the next several months. MORPC will continue to advocate for sustainable, long-term funding for all modes of transportation.