CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday on a bill to keep the federal Transportation Trust Fund in the black at least through Dec. 19. It’s a move to force the U.S. House to pass a bill of their own before the Aug. 1 deadline when the fund goes insolvent.

The bill would provide $8.1 billion for the trust fund. The Senate measure replaces a bill passed by the House last week that provided $10.8 billion for the trust fund extending it until next May.

Mark McConnell, the chief engineer of the Mississippi Department of Transportation and chairman of the federal Transportation Subcommittee on Maintenance, said letting the fund drop to no dollars isn’t an option for Congress.

“If the trust fund goes insolvent, we have to shut off all our projects,” McConnell said.

That’s not just Mississippi but every state in the nation.

The country’s chief maintenance engineers are in Charleston this week for the annual subcommittee meeting. McConnell explained states have been forced to cut way back on road construction because of lack of funding.

“Building a lot of capacity and building new roads has shifted to maintenance because we have to maintain what we build,” said McConnell.

He said even that will become impossible if there’s no federal funds to support repair projects.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said Tuesday, “It is equally unacceptable for Congress to continue operating in a crisis waiting until the very last minute to compromise for the sake of the American people. We can no longer afford to maintain this cynical and potentially catastrophic strategy. The Senate bill will require Congress to work on a long-term deal this year, and I urge my colleagues in the House to support it. The American people deserve better, and it’s time for Congress to deliver on our promises.”

McConnell is in full agreement. He said a six-year funding plan is a must if states want to keep their roads in good repair and focus on new projects.

“From a DOT perspective, it’s almost impossible to plan if you don’t have guaranteed funding over a long period of time,” according to the maintenance engineer.

He said a problem that’s popped up in Mississippi is a good example.

“We built, what we call, the 1987 road program which is building a bunch of 4-lane highways all over the state. They didn’t put anything for maintenance in there,” said McConnell. “So we have all these new highways and no money to pay for them. It just builds a logjam of pavement problems.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday passing a six-year trust fund program will do more than just improve roads and bridges.

“With more than 38,000 miles of public roads within West Virginia’s borders to oversee and maintain, investing in our infrastructure is one of the best ways to create jobs and boost economic development and prosperity, while also improving the conditions in our local communities,” he stressed.

The House is set to vote on some sort of transportation funding before they head home for vacation at the start of next month.

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Comments

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  • Aaron

    With a floor vote of 81 to 13, the Senate finally approved the House version of the trust fund financing through May 2015.

  • Aaron

    As expected the House stripped Senate amendments to their bill. It is now up to the Senate to approve the House version which will fiance the highway fund through next May. Democrats in the Senate can either accept the House version or shut down highway funding.

    If Democrats refuse passing the House version, they risk a huge negative impact during a campaign year particularly given that the House version was sent to the Senate two weeks ago and Harry Reid saton the bill until Tueaday, refusing to act before then thinking he could force Republicans to agree to his bill hoping to have a say in the future of the transportation fund should the Republicans regain the Senate and take control in January.

  • Teach

    Hey Aaron! I told you the roads where crumbling away just like the schools in this state. Because they have not properly maintained anything in this state or country for YEARS!!

    Guess what! Randolph Co. isn't a southern county - check out their problems. AND I think you need to take a road trip all around the state. The roads need repaired state wide not just in the southern (coal-field) counties.

    Also what will more taxes do to the truckers that MUST bring products in and out of our state. Remember all the railroads that were taken out of our wonderful state, how else are we to get products without trucking them in and out???

    The middle-class can't even afford gasoline and diesel now. Families and businesses that are involved using truck transportation in this state can barely make a living now. We are told now that WV has to pay more for fuel because it has to be trucked in, yet some want them to pay more taxes and fees?? We've got to develop some solutions for these problems! If we can build cars to use less gas, then why can't we find solutions to make fuel cheaper?

    • Aaron

      I'm sorry I don't understand why that post is directed at me. I'm not champion higher taxes for repairing only roads in southern West Virginia. I've been all over the state on a motorcycle and I understand the condition that our roads are in.

      I also understand the plight of truck drivers as that was my career for 10 years and very well could be again. I understand that profession better than most so again I don't understand your comments. Perhaps you could elaborate!

  • Teach

    Before the middle class is asked to pay more taxes, the wealthy should PAY UP! I believe there is money available! If people re-elect members of Congress, they are crazy! They let this country come to a government shut-down! We can't even take care of our own country! WV should have COAL AND GAS running at full capacity. This country needs to rely on our own resources. I'm sick of the BLAME game including both DEM. and REP. Just get this country back on track! QUIT arguing and make progress. Other countries are laughing at the wonderful USA because we are loosing control and unity. Suing the President!!! Right or Wrong! LOL!! How does that make us look to the world. It's makes us look senseless and vulnerable.

  • Independent View

    Vienna Guy--Has zeroed in on the crux of the problem. Bravo-please continue.
    Then you have the counter point by "Raging Moderate" who one quickly discovers upon reading their comments that they are in reality a "Closet Liberal."
    So, to summarize, Congress in its infinite (political) wisdom, has once again, chosen the path of least resistance--increase the deficit rather than using sound judgment and making hard choices, especially just months before mid-term elections!
    $8 or 10 billion added to the present deficit of $17+ Billion and counting every minute will catapult this nation's economy into a $25-27 Billion+ deficit and the majority of Americans reaction is, ho-hum, while Congress says, "keep walking nothing to see here."
    This spending and especially deficit spending cannot continue!
    A lot of fault for the present situation lies firmly at the feet of the Federal Highway Administration and the 50 states DOT directors/administrators. The Feds for seeing this coming years/decades ago and did nothing. State highway administrators for squandering fed & state gas tax revenues on frivolous projects such as TEA 21, local parks, model architectural bridge projects, bike paths, landscaping along highways, etc., etc. Bike riders using elaborate paths and eye-candy bike bridges paid for with federal & state gasoline taxes, buy no gas for their bicycles and therefore do not contribute to the highway fund yet, reap great benefits.
    STOP BUILDING ROADS THAT YOU CANNOT MAINTAIN!

    • Aaron

      If we stop building roads, how do we grow?

    • ViennaGuy

      (applauds)

  • mike

    it's time to cut back on some of the money we give to these other countries and start taking care of our own!

  • Raging Moderate

    Instead of playing political games with this funding, why don't the Senate and the House pass laws to make the darn thing solvent for more than 9 months?
    Here's why. We are watching the Dysfunctional in DC show.
    To solve this problem, our illustrious Congress can do only three things: 1) increase the deficit, 2) increase taxes, or 3) cut other areas of the budget and use those monies to fund this. The Rep House will never vote to increase the deficit until days before shutdown, up to the last minute, creating uncertainty, but gives them the opportunity to show their constituents by golly they tried. So Rep candidates like Mooney say we should sell off parts of our National Parks to help pay for this. And raising taxes for any reason is anathema to Reps. The Dem Senate can't find enough money in other parts if the budget to cover the cost, showing their constituents by golly theyre not going to cut their programs. The Reps want to kick the can down the road in hopes they take the Senate, so they can propose such an unworkable plan that it has no chance of being signed then blame Obama for not signing it.
    As a moderate, then, my solution is simple: fund the thing long-term through political compromise. thus eliminating the business-hampering uncertainty of temporary fixes. Find a few areas where, with enough persuasion, Dems could agree to transfer funds into the highway trust fund by reducing programs, including wasteful military programs. Do not deficit spend, but supplement cuts in other areas with a tax increase on consumers- yes a gas tax- the more you use the roads, the more you pay. Would Reps be happy with a tax increase? Not completely, no. Would Dems be thrilled by reducing or slowing increased to other programs? Not really. But that's the way compromise works. You don't get everything you want and I don't get everything I want, but we both get most of what we want and we've done what all of our constituents wanted us to- get our roads repaired.

  • Worm

    China is building roads at a pace that surpasses the US even in the years of interstate construction. Why? They have money. How? They have an economy based on manufacturing. Sound familiar? Get all the parties responsible for the death of the American economy in one room and tell them to come up with the fix. That would be Wall Street, Corporate CEO's, Banking and the Unions. What was handed to use by the greatest generation has been pissed away by the groups just mentioned.

    • ViennaGuy

      China also doesn't have to deal with things like environmental impact studies and prevailing wage laws ...

    • sad

      Those groups are already together, they are still rolling in the dough! They don't care about the average citizen, just the next buck. Why keep manufacturing jobs here when you get the labor & OVHD for a QTR or less of the cost here? The next industry to see a huge demise is the fast food sector. These national protests about wanting $15 wages will go away when machines take over their easy jobs.

  • Aaron

    I'm not sure where Smith gets her information but it is not entirely accurate. The House passed the first transportation that would of financed the transportation fund through next May and sent that bill to the Senate. The Senate debated the bill, amended the House bill to reduce funding through the end of the year and sent that version back to the House.

    Speaker Borhner has vowed to strip the Senate Amendments as they place the onus of financing the transportation fund squarely a lame duck Congress in December, after the elections but before a potential Republican Senate takes their oath next January.

    The story that Smith is missing with her inaccurate reporting is neither the House or Senate version actually addresses the shortfalls of then transportation fund but instead use accounting tricks to extend it. The move by the Senate is a last ditch efforts by Democrats to remain relevant should they lose the Senate as expected.

    • Aaron

      "The bill would provide $8.1 billion for the trust fund. The Senate measure replaces a bill passed by the House last week that provided $10.8 billion for the trust fund extending it until next May."

      I missed that paragraph initially so Smith is not an accurate with the reporting as I initially thought.

      She is still missing and heart of the story which is Senate Democrats trying to remain relevant. We shall see if Boehner sticks to his word and removed the Senate amendments.

      • Sarah

        Aaron: you miss a lot so your version of issues are probably the least accurate.

        • Aaron

          Sarah? No answer?

        • Aaron

          Riddle me this Sarah. How can a spending bill originate in the Senate?

  • questions

    Why are all of our funds running out?

    With all of these funds running out why are we welcoming thousands of illegals and working to provide them amnesty among other things?

    Why have we not passed a budget in several years?

    When will our creditors call our debts and make us pay up?

    • ViennaGuy

      - Why are all of our funds running out? -

      That's just it - the funds are not running out. The Highway Trust Fund is funded by the federal gas tax, so it does has a constant stream of revenue, although the dollar amount of revenue in the stream does vary.

      The problem is that Congress insists on funding more projects than the revenue stream can afford. A secondary problem is that the boost in federal fuel economy requirements results in less fuel being sold and correspondingly less fuel taxes being paid. Congress refuses to recognize that you can't have your cake(higher fuel economy standards) and eat it, too(lower revenues due to higher fuel economy standards). The gas tax could be raised, but Congress considers that to be political suicide. A third problem is that Congress keeps siphoning off gas tax revenues to fund public mass transit, which defeats the purpose of having the trust fund in the first place.

      In the light of decreasing revenue, and in the absence of increasing the gas tax, the solution is to scale back what gets funded. But we all know that Congress will NEVER do that.