The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act enacted in December 2015 represented the first comprehensive, long-term surface transportation legislation since 2005’s SAFETEA-LU. The FAST Act continues to fulfill the Constitutional directive that investment in transportation is a core federal responsibility. Its authorization of $305 billion for federal highway, highway safety, transit, and passenger rail programs from 2016 to 2020 could not have been timelier in supporting our economic growth and maintaining our multimodal transportation infrastructure.
The FAST Act authorizes Federal highway, highway safety, transit, and rail programs for five years from Federal fiscal years (FY) 2016 through 2020. The FAST Act authorized $305 billion from both the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and the General Fund (GF) of the United States Treasury. The bill preserved HTF solvency with general fund transfers totaling $70 billion through 2020.
The nation needs a significant increase in federal transportation formula funding, beyond FAST Act funding levels, along with timely, sustainable, long-term funding to meet national needs for economic competitiveness, connectivity, safety and security. New transportation revenue options should be considered to supplement or replace the deteriorating federal revenue stream. As investment needs grow, HTF revenues derived from fuel taxes will continue to decline due mainly to increased vehicle fuel efficiency.
Additionally, the FAST Act includes a $7.6 billion rescission of unobligated contract authority scheduled for July 2020. Congress should avoid using rescissions of highway contract authority because they impede state DOT flexibility in programming Federal dollars and can result in cuts to highway funding and services, reducing transportation system performance.
The Committee on Funding and Finance is charged with identifying specific policy issues and recommendations related to funding and finance. This white paper presents recommended policies for consideration by AASHTO and the Transportation Policy Forum.