Peter Rogoff

Peter Rogoff

The Obama administration continues to send urgent signals that the Highway Trust Fund is in trouble.

In remarks Monday to the American Trucking Associations Executive Committee, Peter Rogoff, acting under secretary at the Transportation Department, said the fund probably will run into the red before the program ends Oct. 1.

“That means that as a department we will be required to slow down our spending in order to maintain a positive balance, potentially in the heart of the construction season,” Rogoff said.

Rogoff was echoing recent remarks by his boss, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who said the Trust Fund could be depleted by August.

The risk to highway investment lends urgency to the ongoing congressional debate over funding and reauthorization of the current two-year highway program.

“We think it’s absolutely critical that we get on with the business of a discussion of shoring up the finances of the trust fund now,” Rogoff said.

The urgency arises in part from the expected draining of the fund, but more from the impact that this event has on state departments of transportation, he said.

“We need to be mindful of the fact that state transportation commissioners, governors and mayors need to start making investment decisions well in advance of August.”

Without a positive signal from Washington, they will start to hold back on investment decisions, he said.

Rogoff commended ATA for leadership on the funding issue. The association supports a fuel tax increase to replenish the fund. The administration does not favor a tax increase but is recommending a one-time infusion of funds garnered from corporate tax reforms.

Oliver Patton

Oliver Patton

Former Washington Editor

Truck journalist 36 years, who joined Heavy Duty Trucking in 1998 and has retired. He was the trucking press’ leading authority on legislative and regulatory affairs.