According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there could be a shortfall in the highway trust fund (HTF) as soon as mid-July.
For much of the country, that could mean a halt to construction on bridges and roads.
“What we’re facing in transportation is the transportation equivalent of a government shutdown, it is that simple, but it is that stark and disturbing if folks don’t start (to) surrender some of their predispositions on what should happen next,” U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said.
Congress has yet to agree on a long-term plan to keep the HTF solvent, but Casey is endorsing a short-term fix introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) Wednesday called “Preserving America’s Transit and Highways (PATH) Act.
PATH aims to create a $9 billion patch through various tax changes and would provide funds through December.
One such change would involve heavy highway vehicles. There is currently a $550 cap for those that weigh more than 75,000 pounds, but PATH would replace that with a $1,100 cap for vehicles over 97,000 pounds.
Casey said failure to pass this short-term solution would not only mean a halt to projects, but also a loss in jobs and a delay to economic growth.
“We know that states have begun slowing down projects and would slow them down a lot more significantly if the dollars won’t be there for infrastructure, which we know it creates jobs,” Casey said. “We know if you spend a billion bucks you get 27,000 jobs to 37,000 jobs.”
However, Rich Kirkpatrick, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman, said people in the commonwealth don’t need to start panicking quite yet.
“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Corbett and the legislature, last November we got a new transportation plan, Act 89, that is beginning to give additional resources for highways, bridges and other transportation modes,” Kirkpatrick said.
Act 89 was passed by the state last November and uses higher gas taxes and motorist fees to fund roadway infrastructure projects as well as mass transit.
But Kirkpatrick said those funds can only keep Pennsylvania going for so long, before a federal agreement is needed.
“That can’t go on forever, we do need a resolution in Washington sooner rather than later, but unlike many states Pennsylvania can continue to move forward with repaving projects, the bridge repairs, the other critical needs that people want addressed,” Kirkpatrick said.