Road builders unveil highway trust fund calculator

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The ARTBA said Tuesday that the amount of money the gas tax brings in at the 1993 level, approximately $35 billion per year, "cannot keep up with demand on the system.

"Federal dollars provide 30 to 70 percent of every state’s capital investment in highway, bridge and transit projects annually," the organization said. "But Highway Trust Fund (HTF) revenues have not been adjusted in 20 years. Without new revenues, the trust fund faces a 100 percent cut in FY2015."

The current transportation spending law is scheduled to expire in September 2014. Congress paid for the measure, which spends approximately $54 billion per year on transportation projects, with a package of trust fund sweeps and fee increases.

The ARBTA said lawmakers now face "four clear choices" when it comes time to authorize the next round of transportation spending.

"Let the Highway Trust Fund go over the fiscal cliff; steal from other areas of discretionary spending; borrow from the general fund and add to the deficit; or raise new revenues," the organization said of the choices.

The ARBTA said its online calculator allows visitors to be the "legislator" and make the budget choices themselves.

According to the group's calculator, a 4.3 cent-per-gallon increase similar to the 1993 gas tax hike would change the status of the Highway Trust Fund from "still stuck in traffic" to "green light."

Under the current status of the transportation funding, the calculator says "the HTF revenues will maintain system components, but not make any improvements."

If the tax was increased to 22.7 cents per gallon, however, the calculator says "spending levels can support all economically beneficial projects."