Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer is preparing to push a legislation to raise the federal gas tax by 15 cents per gallon and lay the groundwork for a transition to what he terms a more stable source of funding for U.S. transportation infrastructure.
In the current congressional climate, it doesn't seem as if Blumenauer's "Update, Promote and Develop America's Transportation Essentials Act" has much of a chance to see the light of day, let alone pass a sharply divided Congress.
Blumenauer spent time in Oregon during the congressional break to tout the legislation. He says added gas tax revenue will help catch up on lagging transportation investment and relieve pressure on the federal general fund, which has been tapped to supplement the Federal Highway Trust Fund that is running on empty.
Congress grabbed $50 billion from the federal general fund to sustain projects underway as part of the federal transportation bill that expires at the end of 2014.
As vehicles have become more fuel efficient — and some have stopped using gas or diesel altogether — federal and state highway trust funds have felt the squeeze of declining revenues relative to road miles they must maintain, upgrade or expand.