U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) today joined representatives from a coalition of building trades unions and highway industry associations at a press conference near the Verona Road construction project to call on Congress to save the federal Highway Trust Fund.
"We're gathering here today because we are worried that Congress will not act in time. If Congress does not act by the end of August, the Highway Trust Fund will run dry," warned Rep. Mark Pocan. "This would impact nearly 700,000 jobs across the country next year. Today, there are more than 100,000 active projects across the country, just like the one here at Verona Road. If Congress does not act soon, states like Wisconsin may have to choose which projects going on across the state continue and which ones will have to be delayed because of insufficient funds."
States initially fund highway construction projects and then get reimbursed for the costs through the Highway Trust Fund. The question now is whether states will be paid back in a timely manner. Without the vital funding from the Highway Trust Fund, projects across Wisconsin could be left without the necessary resources to complete construction on schedule. If financial support from the Highway Trust Fund lapses, the cost of restarting delayed projects could balloon the costs and further jeopardize future construction. It could also lead to job losses in the region and prolong delays for commuters.
"Hundreds of thousands of workers across the country and many right here in south central Wisconsin are counting on Congress to do its job so we can keep doing ours," said Dave Branson, Executive Director of the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin. "Our members live in the local community and take pride in the work that they do. They want to be sure the job can get done so their families can drive on new and safe roads. They want to complete job without fear that the money may dry up and they could be out of a job."
The Highway Trust Fund is "user-supported" through a federal gas tax. The HTF shortfall stems from the fact that the gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993. All while the country's population has grown substantially and cars have become more fuel-efficient. Reduced financial support and the growing cost of surface transportation construction projects have resulted in the financial crisis the fund is facing today.
"Local businesses and communities rely on our roads and highways," said Jim Hoffman, President of Hoffman Construction Company. "Without the guarantee funds that will be available, some states have decided to put projects on hold, because they don't want to risk unfinished projects left without funding. Stopping the crisis facing the Highway Trust Fund will require Congress to take action before the end of August. We're all counting on them to do the right thing."