Federal road maintenance fund may go broke

June 30, 2009 7:30:47 PM PDT
The federal fund that pays for building and maintaining and much of our transportation system is going broke. And as you might expect, on Capitol Hill, they disagree over how to fix the fund. One solution is paying more at the pump by raising the gas tax.

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About 18 cents per gallon of gas goes to the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for transportation projects, maintenance and growth.

That means for Christina Deeb's $74 fill-up, just over $4 went to the highway fund. Would she be willing to pay more?

"If they could do something about lowering the price per gallon, no problem," said Deeb.

The problem is -- the fund will run out of money next month. Why? The gas tax for transportation hasn't gone up since the Reagan era, hasn't kept up with inflation and now people are driving less and driving more fuel efficient cars.

Construction jobs and desperately needed maintenance hang in the balance.

"We have an immediate issue and an immediate problem. That immediate problem is a shortfall," said Senator Barbara Boxer (D) California.

The Obama administration is scrambling to find $20 billion to keep the fund going for another year and a half. Some say putting off the inevitable gas tax increase until after the 2010 elections.

"Most of us don't want to raise the gas tax and that doesn't matter which year, this year or next year," said Sen. Boxer.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair James Oberstar has proposed a six year, $500 billion bill that would reform transportation funding and objectives.

But the Obama administration is opposed, saying there are bigger fish to fry right now, and it's unclear how we'd pay for it.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission thinks a gas tax increase is the way to go -- right away.

"If you want less congestion, repairs, mobility then you're going to have to pay for it," said Randy Rentschler from the MTC.

Other revenue sources being considered include more tolls, or a fee based on how much you drive.

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