Pennsylvania State Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E., said that a shortfall in the federal Highway Trust Fund poses a threat to the state's bridge and highway program, and Congress needs to act quickly to address the problem, according to PRNewswire.
"Everyone had been warned of this approaching Highway Trust Fund imbalance and the impact could be severe if not corrected," Biehler added. "We are still assessing the magnitude of potential changes to our highway and bridge program."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced September 8 in Washington that, beginning next week, the federal government will start taking cash management steps to protect the solvency of the highway account in the trust fund. The account's balance has dropped from $4.2 billion at the end of July to less than $1.4 billion at the beginning of September. The account is projected to incur a deficit of $3.3 billion in federal fiscal year 2009, which begins October 1.
Shift from Daily to Weekly Reimbursement
"We have said the deficit in the federal highway trust fund could cost us $543 million in the new federal fiscal year if it is not corrected," Biehler said.
In federal fiscal year 2008, which ends September 30, Pennsylvania received $1.6 billion in federal highway and bridge funds.
Under the steps Peters announced, the federal government will shift from daily to weekly reimbursements to the states and payments will be pro-rated. The Federal Highway Administration advised the states that only partial payments will be made.
Peters urged Congress to enact a bill by the end of next week that provides $8 billion in funding to cover the shortfall.
"I join with Secretary Peters in urging Congress to act quickly," Biehler said. "The condition of our bridges and highways requires full -- not partial -- payments from the federal government."