Poll: 53 percent think feds should increase highway spending

Poll: 53 percent think feds should increase highway spending
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A majority of U.S. residents would like to see the federal government increase its spending on the nation's roads and bridges, according to a poll that was conducted recently by The Associated Press and GFK. 

The poll shows 53 percent of the nation's population think Congress "should increase spending to build and improve roads, bridges and interstate highways." 

About 33 percent of U.S. residents "think current spending levels are about right," while 10 percent "would like to see less money spent on roads," according to the poll. 

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The findings come as lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to pay for even an extension that would at least keep the spending levels flat past this summer ahead of a July 31 deadline for the expiration of the current infrastructure measure. 

Congress has been grappling with a transportation funding shortfall that is estimated to be about $16 billion per year for a decade. 

The federal government typically spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion annually. 

Congress has been struggling to come up with a solution to the deficit since 2005, but they have not passed a transportation bill that lasts longer than two years in that span. 

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated it will take about $100 billion, in addition to the gas tax revenue, to close the gap long enough to pay for a six-year transportation funding bill. 

The 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax has been the main source of transportation funding for decades, but it has not been increased since 1993, and more fuel-efficient cars have sapped its buying power.

Transportation supporters have pushed for a gas tax increase to pay for a long-term transportation bill, meanwhile, but Republican lawmakers have ruled out such a hike

The Department of Transportation has said the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in late July or early August if Congress does not come to an agreement on an extension in the next couple of weeks.

Lawmakers have turned to other areas of the federal budget to close the transportation funding gap in recent years, resulting in temporary fixes, such as a two-month patch that was approved by lawmakers last month. 

If lawmakers cannot come up with a way to pay for the long-term transportation bill by the end of July, they will likely have to settle for another short-term patch. 

The AP poll found 40 percent of U.S residents "say spending on public transportation should be increased, while an equal number "say current spending is about right." The poll found 18 percent of the nation's residents "say transit spending should be cut." 

Federal law currently requires that 20 percent of highway spending be set aside for transit projects. 

The full poll results can be read here