Four days after enactment of an $8-billion "fix" for the Highway Trust Fund, the Federal Highway Administration on Sept. 19 resumed its daily reimbursements to state transportation agencies for highway project obligations they incur, the Dept. of Transportation said.
The $8-billion infusion averted a threatened deficit at the end of September in the trust fund's highway account. US DOT Secretary Mary Peters on Sept. 5 had directed FHWA to slow down reimbursements, having the agency repay states' highway aid "invoices" once a week, instead of on its previous twice-a-day schedule. She also instructed FHWA to restrict repayments to the amount on hand in the highway account, which could have resulted in paying states only a percentage of the amount they requested.
Peters endorsed the legislative remedy, which authorized an $8-billion shift from the Treasury's general fund to the trust fund. That was a major policy shift, coming about six weeks after the Office of Management and Budget had issued a veto warning over a nearly identical bill. But after the Senate and House quickly approved the new measure, Bush signed it on Sept. 15.
In announcing the return to daily reimbursements, Peters said that FHWA on Sept. 18 had "paid all current state payment requests" for federal highway aid.
Looking ahead, she said, "While the highway account has been temporarily replenished, we should not delude ourselves into thinking the fundamental problems of transportation funding are somehow resolved. It is imperative that the debate begin now as to the most effective means to finance and improve highways and transit infrastructure in the U.S."