The Eno Center for Transportation released the primer Highway Trust Fund 101 (PDF) in June 2015. The primer answers such questions as “What is the Highway Trust Fund (HTF)? What constitutes HTF income? How does the Treasury Department account for HTF revenues? How does the HTF operate?”
The primer explains the sources of revenue, transfers made by Congress from the General Fund and Leaking Underground Storage Trust Fund to shore up balances over time, how the fund is split into the Highway Account and Mass Transit Account, and how funds are transferred between accounts.
Currently, the Highway Trust Fund is estimated by the U.S. Department of Transportation to become insolvent in the next few months without Congressional action to increase revenues (see the agency’s HTF ticker here). Important for this discussion, the Eno primer also addresses the questions, “Why are positive balances necessary? What happens when the HTF runs out of money?”
The primer updates a 1998 publication publication released by the Federal Highway Administration, and it is useful reading for both experienced transportation professionals and those new to the field to understand how federal funding works and to explain the issues to rural planning policy board and technical committee members. Even professionals with a long history in the field may find it beneficial to read through the sections on why the HTF is not subject to the Budget Control Act or sequestration, and what the difference between contract authority and obligation limit is.
View the Eno primer here (PDF).
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