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U.S. Highway Trust Fund Faces Insolvency Next Year, CBO Says

The Highway Trust Fund, which pays for U.S. road, bridge and mass-transit projects, faces insolvency “sometime” during the 2013 fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Highway Trust Fund will probably run a deficit of $10 billion this year, compared with $8 billion in 2011, the Washington-based CBO, which provides Congress with analysis on programs funded by the U.S. budget, said in a report today. The fund, which is financed through fuel taxes, won’t be able to meet its obligations next fiscal year, according to the report.

“Today America is one big pothole and we have lots of bridges that are crumbling,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a speech in New York yesterday. “The Highway Trust Fund was a great source to build our interstate highway system, but it has been diminished.”

Revenue into the trust fund, primarily from U.S. fuel taxes, has declined as cars have become more fuel-efficient and Americans are driving less because of higher gasoline prices, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans have ruled out increasing the 18.4-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, last raised in 1993. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Obama’s deficit-reduction commission have recommended increasing the tax by 15 cents a gallon.

Spending Exceeds Income

The trust fund collected $36.9 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. It was authorized by Congress to fund $52.7 billion in highway and mass transit projects.

Congress has moved $34.5 billion to the trust fund from the general fund since 2008 to keep it solvent.

The Senate and House have proposed bills authorizing more in spending than the fund’s income from taxes.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, approved legislation calling for $109 billion in spending over two years. That measure may be considered by the full Senate next month.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led by Florida Republican John Mica, is set to introduce a bill today authorizing about $260 billion over five years.

Obama last week proposed funding infrastructure projects with money that had been spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since 2009, U.S. surface-transportation funding has continued through a series of legislative extensions, the latest of which expires March 31.

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