Highway Trust Fund could be depleted in August

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Money for current highway construction will run out in August unless Congress approves up to $7 billion more, according to the Obama administration.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said this week the administration has told senators the Federal Highway Trust Fund will need an estimated $5 billion to $7 billion to maintain existing construction projects. The administration said another $8 billion to $10 billion will be needed for the year ending Sept. 30, 2010. U.S. Transportation Department spokeswoman Jill Zuckman confirmed those figures Wednesday, June 3.

Reduced driving since 2007 has cut federal gas tax revenue, which is the primary source of highway fund money. Some members of Congress have proposed increasing the federal gas tax, which has been at 18.4 cents a gallon since the 1990s. Last year, Congress approved an emergency transfer of $8 billion in general treasury money to make up a projected shortfall in the fund – the first time in the program’s history that had happened.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund began with the start of the federal interstate highway program in 1956. Trust fund money is separate from the $48 billion in transportation projects included in the economic stimulus program.