White House report blames road decay for sluggish growth

| Monday, July 14, 2014, 10:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — More than two-thirds of American roadways are in need of repair, and the poor condition of the nation's transportation network results in billions in extra costs, according to a White House report.

The report was released on Monday in conjunction with President Obama's campaign to pressure Congress for a deal to replenish the Highway Trust Fund.

The fund, supplied by fuel taxes, is heading toward insolvency as early as next month, jeopardizing jobs and projects during the peak construction season.

Crumbling roads and bridges cut into economic growth by increasing transportation costs and delaying shipments, according to the report.

“A well-performing transportation network keeps jobs in America, allows businesses to expand and lowers prices on household goods to American families,” said a 27-page report by the Council of Economic Advisers and National Economic Council.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are among the states with the most roads rated in poor condition, according to the White House.

Twenty-three percent of New York's 114,592 miles of roadway are listed in poor condition and 35 percent of public roads in New Jersey are rated that way, according to the White House report. In Connecticut, 41 percent of 21,414 miles of public roads are rated poor.

Obama is scheduled to speak on Tuesday at a highway research center in McLean, Va., that tests technology to make road and bridge building more efficient. He'll promote the need to invest in the nation's infrastructure on Thursday during a trip to Delaware, where he'll announce an initiative to increase private sector investment.

States should expect the government to begin slowing payments as early as Aug. 1, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said. Construction delays threaten 112,000 transportation projects and about 700,000 construction jobs, Vice President Joe Biden told business leaders at the White House last week.

The trust fund “is quickly running toward insolvency,” Foxx said.

The transportation funding law expires on Sept. 30.

The House and Senate are preparing legislation to shore up transportation funding through May 2015, and lawmakers said votes could be taken as soon as Tuesday.

The House and Senate proposals generate almost $11 billion, according to Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation. They include increased customs fees, changes to pensions that lower companies' short-term contributions, and revenue from a leaking underground storage tank fund. The Democratic-led Senate version, though, contains other tax provisions that might be obstacles in the Republican-controlled House.

Pennsylvania will not have a problem paying for its highway projects while Congress works toward a resolution of the Highway Trust Fund crisis, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

Lawmakers, however, have stressed the importance of keeping the money coming.

“There is an immediate need to address the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and to extend the current surface transportation law in order to prevent a shutdown of transportation programs and projects across the country in the coming weeks,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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