Gridlock in Washington will lead to gridlock across the country if lawmakers can’t quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs, President Barack Obama and his top officials warned Tuesday.
States will begin to feel the pain of cutbacks in federal aid as soon as the first week in August — peak summer driving time — if Congress doesn’t act, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a letter to states. That’s because the balance in the federal Highway Trust Fund is dropping and will soon go below $4 billion, the cushion federal officials say is needed for incoming fuel tax revenue to cover outgoing payments to states.
The cuts will vary from state to state, but will average about 28 percent, Foxx said. By the end of August, the trust fund’s balance is forecast to fall to zero and the cuts could deepen.
A second deadline is coming Sept. 30 when the government’s authority to spend money on transportation programs expires.
As many as 700,000 jobs could be at risk, Obama told a crowd of about 500 gathered on a sweltering day beneath the Key Bridge that spans the Potomac River and joins the District of Columbia with Virginia.
Revenue from federal gas and diesel taxes continues to flow into the trust fund, but the total is expected to be about $8 billion short of the transportation aid the government has allocated to states this year. Over the next six years, a gap of about $100 billion is forecast if transportation spending is maintained at current levels.