The U.S. Senate Finance Committee on May 6 began debating how to fund surface transportation programs in an effort to find ways to close severe funding gaps before the current transportation legislation expires Sept. 30.
The hearing was held less than a week after the Obama Administration unveiled a transportation proposal that includes lifting the longstanding ban on tolling existing interstates as a means of generating revenues for the Highway Trust Fund.
An official from the Congressional Budget Office testified that lawmakers will need to increase the federal gas tax by 10 cents to 15 cents per gallon or find between $13 billion and $18 billion per year from other sources to maintain current transportation project spending levels.
During the hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the Environment and Public Works Committee is preparing to mark up draft transportation legislation, possibly the week of May 12. Sen. Boxer said her bill would be for current funding plus inflation and “uses every dollar wisely.”
In discussing the Administration’s plan to toll existing interstates, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx testified that states would have to develop their tolling programs and the proposals would have to be evaluated and approved by the DOT.
On May 6 a House Appropriations subcommittee also put out its 2015 budget bill for the transportation and housing departments. The bill includes $40 billion for highways, reduces TIGER grants to $100 million and prohibits the program from funding pedestrian projects. It also allows truck size and weight increases in three states.
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