Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office
Gov. Beshear Welcomes Congressional Action to Prevent Insolvency of Federal Highway Trust Fund, Renews Call for Long-Term Solution
Keeps I-65 widening project, other important projects viable
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Steve Beshear today said he welcomed the fact that Congress had prevented an immediate insolvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund but was disappointed that Congress missed an opportunity to fulfill its larger responsibility – enactment of a long-term, sustainable solution that funds transportation construction well into the future.
The Trust Fund is the source of a third of all transportation funding for the Commonwealth. Though Congress chose to enact only a short-term patch, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will proceed with an August round of contracting for projects, including more widening of Interstate 65, the Governor said.
Late Thursday, Congress passed a $10.8 billion bill to keep the Trust Fund solvent through May 2015. Without the temporary patch, the Trust Fund would have run dry at some point in August.
Gov. Beshear had been outspoken about the urgency and necessity of Congress bridging its partisan, polarizing divide for the sake of Kentucky and other states, on which all Americans depend for a modern, well-maintained surface transportation system.
“In the short term, last night’s action by Congress on the Federal Highway Trust Fund is good news for Kentucky,” Gov. Beshear said. “But the larger challenge to find a long-term solution remains to be met. My administration has been calling on our Senators and U.S. Representatives to find that long-term solution because the Fund is a significant source of funding for road construction and maintenance projects in Kentucky and elsewhere.”
The Trust Fund is the repository of federal taxes paid by motorists on sales of motor fuels. The money is returned to the states for use on roads and bridges that make up the United States’ national highway system. Kentucky’s share was $722 million in 2013, complementing state Road Fund revenues of $1.4 billion.
With its federal authorization about to expire, the solvency of the Trust Fund had reached a crisis stage. In July, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx notified Kentucky and other states that the Federal Highway Administration soon would be forced to delay their payments – an ominous development because federal highway funding is not up-front money; it actually is reimbursement to states for costs they have incurred on transportation projects.
“Had no action been taken, Kentucky no longer would have received our usual allotment of federal highway funds beginning today, Aug. 1. That would have put millions of dollars in projects in jeopardy, like the widening of I-65 and major pavement repairs on Kentucky’s interstates and parkways,” Gov. Beshear said.
In fact, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet had already delayed contracting for $185 million worth of projects that otherwise would have been offered for bids in May. They included the long-awaited and badly needed widening of certain sections of I-65 between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green.
“Although this action is a short-term patch, I appreciate Congress hearing our concerns and those of communities across the Commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said. “A strong highway system is a foundation for not only economic growth but also our very quality of life in Kentucky. We still need a long-term solution that funds highway construction well into the future, and I’m hopeful Congress can put partisan politics aside and arrive at a solution in the near future.”