Where is the Highway Trust Fund money being spent? See the map!

Click above for a larger image.

Wonk out on this update below about the federal Highway Trust Fund from Metro’s government relations staff. The gist of it: California is getting back more than we’re putting in — but not nearly to the extent that some states are, as the above map shows. Hmm.

The Trust Fund is funded by federal taxes everyone pays on gasoline. And while the money mostly goes to roads, some of it does dribble down to mass transit. The update:

Today, the United States GAO issued a study which found that every state received more funding for highway programs than they contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund from 2005 to 2009.

This occurred because funding authorized by Congress exceeded the amount collected through the Highway Trust Fund. Since 2008, Congress has bolstered the Highway Trust Fund by transferring approximately $30 billion from general revenues.

According to the GAO study, the State of California secured $1.19 per dollar contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund.

The GAO report was requested by Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rahall responded to the GAO study by remarking, “Using rate of return as our rationale for how we spend our limited transportation dollars simply detracts from the national focus when we ought to look at the larger picture and determine what investments best help create American jobs and grow our economy.”

Please click here to view the GAO’s website where both a summary of the study and the full study are available. Also, please click here to review a document from the Final Report of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Finance Commission titled Paying Our Way, A New Framework for Transportation Finance which describes how the Highway Trust Fund has experienced a cumulative loss in purchasing power of about 33% over the past 15 years.

Congress — well at least some members — have been talking for years about reforming the way the Highway Trust Fund is funded and how its dollars should be doled out. For now, it remains only talk and the money continues to go every which way in a not terribly coordinated fashion. Surprised?


3 replies

  1. I agree with LAofAnaheim. For half a century highways have overshadowed transit by a long shot. Now, its time to turn that around so what we end up with is a built up transit system the way that our highways already are. It ends up all balancing out in the end unlike what the naysayers say about being “preferential to transit” although I would not oppose that. 50 plus years of highway funding should yield to the same amount of transit funding from now on. And 80/20 to transit (since the money is going to be spent anyway) would simply switch funding priorities without adding additional government spending.

  2. I wish they would change this to the “Transit Trust Fund”. What if this Fund was changed to a 80/20 split for Transit/Highways, instead of the current 80/20 for highways…. Oh, that would change the perception of transit investment in America!