As Anthony Foxx moves into his new job as head of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, he will face tough infrastructure issues. Leading the list for Foxx—who was confirmed 100-0 by the Senate on June 27 and sworn in as DOT secretary on July 2—will be addressing the ailing Highway Trust Fund.
The trust fund is the prime financing source for major highways and an important revenue stream for transit projects. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the trust fund's highway account will drop into the red late next year. That's about the time when the current highway-transit authorization measure, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), is scheduled to expire.
Jay Hansen, executive vice president of the National Asphalt Pavement Association, says, "For the construction industry, the No. 1 issue is finding new revenues to make the [highway] program whole."
Without new revenue, surfacetransportation spending would have to be trimmed by 92%, says David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association senior vice president of government relations.
With such a huge potential cut looming next fall, he says the trust fund is likely to be, "if not the biggest priority for the largest program in the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, it's certainly got to be in the top three."
Industry officials want to see highway spending expand, not just hold steady. Hansen says, "Finding revenues over and above what we need to just sustain the program is going to be very challenging."
Bauer doesn't expect Foxx to chart policies that differ from those of his predecessor, Ray LaHood, who led DOT since January 2009. "The administration has four years' worth of foundational work in place, and I think that it's hard to presume that we're somehow going to see a major sea change in the way it approaches transportation policy matters," Bauer says.
Another DOT challenge is writing the many new regulations MAP-21 mandated. Those regs include a set of rules spelling out new project-performance standards in categories such as safety, infrastructure conditions, congestion and freight movement.