Hours before the Highway Trust Fund was due to run out, Congress passed legislation Thursday to extend federal funding for highway and transit construction through May 2015, avoiding thousands of layoffs and a lapse in infrastructure projects nationwide.
Because it helps to ensure opportunity for all Americans, affordable and accessible transportation is a critical civil rights issue.
“Access to transportation is vital to connecting communities to jobs, schools, housing, health care services, and to grocery stores and nutritious food,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “But millions of low-income and working families, people of color, and people with disabilities live in communities where quality transportation options are unaffordable, unreliable, or nonexistent.”
While the agreement provides temporary funds for infrastructure development, lawmakers have been unable to agree on a source of long-term transportation funding. Proposals for long-term funding – such as raising the gas tax, cutting postal services, and raising revenues through corporate tax reform – have thus far failed to receive widespread support.
And while the Highway Trust Fund faces a $164 billion shortfall over the next decade, it is unlikely that lawmakers will make any progress toward a long-term fix before November’s midterm elections.
“Delay of a long-term reauthorization keeps workers off the job, undercuts long-term planning, and hinders the nation’s ability to advance to a transportation system that provides for the needs of all its users,” Zirkin said.