For the first time in a decade, the House of Representatives today passed a six year authorization for America’s highways, bridges and transit projects. This allows our nation to rebuild its aging infrastructure and fund critical transportation projects. I supported this legislation because it will help communities like ours to plan, repair and build the transportation projects that we depend on to get our kids to school, move goods to market and get to work on time.
In 2015 alone, Texas received more than $3 billion in federal funding for its highway projects. El Paso received nearly $150 million for I-10, our bridges, sidewalks and buses. By voting for this bill, El Paso will see even more federal dollars for. roads, shorter commutes and the possibility of alternative transportation projects for bus rapid transit, the new trolley line, and additional bike lanes.
Is this bill perfect? Certainly not, but no bill this far reaching and predicated on compromise ever is. For example, only three of the six years authorized are actually paid for and so we must find funding for the latter years.
That is because the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is the primary source of funding for our highway and transit programs. It itself is funded through a federal gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993. As Americans spend less on gas and drive more efficient cars the gas tax and HTF are not keeping up with the resource demands of our transportation infrastructure. Although not included as a solution in this highway bill, it is clear to me that we should index the gas tax to inflation to raise the necessary resources.
The fact that tonight we made the necessary decisions and compromises to pass a $330 billion bill — a major piece of legislation — is encouraging. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but after years of fiscal cliffs, stop-gap funding and legislative paralysis, perhaps this is a positive sign of progress to come.