With the federal government back in operation for three weeks after a historic shutdown, U.S. transportation agencies are breathing short sighs of relief. As President Trump fought with Congress over a border wall for 35 painful days, the Federal Transit Administration’s activities hung at a standstill, leaving rail and bus systems around the U.S. without billions in expected reimbursements and grants. By last week, some rural operators were starting to mull service cuts.
But the reprieve will be short, and not only because the country faces a good chance of another prolonged shutdown. The highway trust fund, the federal account that collects gas-tax receipts and supplies the vast majority of transportation funding to states and cities, is set to dry up in 2022, a new report by the Congressional Budget Office finds. The cash that’s allocated to public transit specifically will run out even sooner, in 2021.