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Highway Trust Fund shortage threatens road work in Michigan

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Transportation officials in Michigan are hearing from their federal counterparts this week about a funding shortage that may affect next year’s orange barrel season.

The problem is fuel efficient cars, at least partially. More fuel efficient cars mean less gas revenue flowing into the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  The federal gas tax rate has remained at the same level for two decades.  

The fund is important because it helps pay for state and local transportation projects. But the trust fund is facing a shortfall.  

This week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent letters to state and local transportation officials. In the letter, he outlines steps the federal government is taking to “manage” the fund.  That means the federal government will not have enough money to fund road construction projects in Michigan and elsewhere.

Credit US Dept. of Transportation
US Dept. of Transportation
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

“We’ll just have to decide that some things will have to be put off until other years probably,” says Jeff Cranson, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Cranson says there’s enough money for construction projects currently underway. He says the problem begins next year.    

Congress has been debating ways of raising additional revenue for the fund.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is concerned the debate is taking too long.

“There is still time for Congress to act on a long term solution,” said Secretary Foxx. “Our transportation infrastructure is too essential to suffer continued neglect, and I hope Congress will avert this crisis before it is too late.” 

MDOT’s Jeff Cranson is optimistic lawmakers in Washington will come up with more money this fall.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.