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AASHTO highlights need for infrastructure plan that also fixes trust fund

News | May 30, 2017 | By:

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) called on Congress and the Trump administration to enact a major transportation investment program this year, one that channels federal funds through existing programs and includes a long-term revenue fix for the Highway Trust Fund, according to the AASHTO Journal.

Chief executives from state departments of transportation, who make up the AASHTO board, approved the policy statement May 25, 2017, at the association’s spring meeting in Portland, Me.

AASHTO called for President Donald Trump to honor “his commitment to shepherd and enact a major infrastructure package this year.” It said that “at a minimum, the infrastructure package address the funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund with a long-term and sustainable revenue solution.”

The group urged, “The existing federal program structure—including highways, transit and rail—be utilized” to distribute any direct federal funding, “since it would enable investments to flow to every area of the country.”

AASHTO’s board approved the statement the same week that the White House issued President Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal 2018, which starts Oct. 1. The administration both called for cuts in a number of transportation programs next year and laid out some principles it plans to use for a ten-year, $200-billion federal investment strategy that the White House projects will generate $1 trillion overall in new public and private project spending, the AASHTO Journal said.

The group said, the White House also signaled that it wants to reexamine the traditional way the federal government takes in revenue for the highway system and helps states allocate it.

The association noted that the current five-year surface transportation authorization law, the FAST Act, has provided near-term funding stability and relief to states, but that a major funding gap remains between infrastructure needs and the resources available to pay for them.

The state officials agreed with an administration push to find more ways to speed up infrastructure projects, such as by letting states take on more of the environmental review requirements now handled by the Federal Highway Administration or other U.S. agencies.

The association’s board recommended that “Wherever possible, traditional federal authorities be assigned to states to expedite and streamline project delivery without sacrificing fundamental principles associated with current federal requirements.”

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