President Obama called on Congress Tuesday to act swiftly to pass legislation that would allow the federal Department of Transportation to continue reimbursing states for construction projects financed by the Highway Trust Fund.
The president spoke at Georgetown’s Waterfront Park in Washington, D.C., overlooking Key Bridge, which is currently undergoing federally funded construction after being found structurally deficient.
If Congress fails to find a way to replenish the trust fund in the next few months, as many as 700,000 jobs could be at risk, according to Obama.
“That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver, or Seattle, or Boston,” Obama said, according to the New York Times. “That’s a lot of people. It would be a bad idea.”
Separately, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on July 1 the federal government will begin rationing highways funds to states beginning Aug.1, as the trust fund begins to run dry.
“I’ve been talking about this cliff for six months, and it’s here. I’m concerned that we might go over,” said Foxx, reported the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t think the general public, Congress or anyone really understands how serious it is.”
While a short term fix for the trust fund will be debated in both the House and Senate next week, a long-term fix for the fund remains elusive.
Beginning next year, the trust fund will not have enough money to meet its obligations for projects that are currently under way, according to the Congressional Budget Office.