The fiscally conservative House majority continues to pursue reductions in federal spending, and federal transportation spending is part of the mix. Further use of the general fund to supplement the Highway Trust Fund motor fuel taxes, as well as increases in fuel taxes, are opposed by the House majority. Cuts could come in several forms, including cuts in Title 23 programs overall or cuts to specific programs.
Given the diminishing role of the Highway Trust Fund in funding future transportation investment, federal credit assistance under the TIFIA program needs to grow in significance. But concerns are rising that TIFIA will be among the U.S. Department of Transportation programs targeted for substantial cuts in the current and next fiscal years. Such cuts would put in jeopardy the financial feasibility of most of the large, complex projects that are being delivered via public-private partnerships in the U.S.
In response, leaders of transportation agencies from across the country delivered a letter to Congress on Feb. 14 urging against such action. The letter, signed by 21 leaders of state and regional transportation agencies, states:
"The TIFIA program remains one of the critical methods available in this country to advance major transportation projects by leveraging private sector funding. While we would like to see the program’s capacity increased and are working to do so as part of the SAFETEA-LU authorization process, it is critical that Congress provide the authorized level of $122 million this fiscal year. Given the fact that this authorized level can be leveraged to over a billion dollars of infrastructure investment, there are few federal programs that provide this return-on-investment for the American taxpayer and the economy as a whole."
The letter is a summons to all in the surface transportation sector to make the case to Congress and the Administration to preserve, if not expand, the TIFIA program.