AASHTO Journal

Traffic Safety Group Says Trust Fund Solvency Key to Reducing Highway Crash Deaths

A major national roadway safety group is saying that federal action to ensure long-term funding certainty for the Highway Trust Fund is a key to paying for the types of projects that reduce the number of people killed in traffic crashes.

The American Traffic Safety Services Association made the comments in response to a new report by the TRIP research organization that focused on highway and bridge infrastructure problems on rural roads, which see a fatality rate more than twice the level of that on urban roads.

ATSSA Vice President of Government Relations Nate Smith said in a June 27 blog message that association members "look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the [Trump] administration on roadway safety infrastructure solutions, which save lives on rural roads."

capitol0816.jpgIn particular, Smith added, "ensuring the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund gives states the necessary investments to aggressively tackle and reduce the number of road users killed on rural and urban roadways."

His statement comes as many transportation stakeholders, including the state transportation department CEOs who comprise the board of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, are also urging President Trump and congressional leaders to fix the trust fund as they consider a major new infrastructure investment plan or tax overhaul.

The AASHTO board in a May 25 policy statement warned that the trust fund only has enough revenue to cover its authorized spending levels through 2020, after which it could again face a series of disruptive short-term funding extensions or an actual funding cut unless Congress approves a revenue stream that sustains it for a lengthy period.

Otherwise, the AASHTO board said, "recurring cash shortfalls to the Highway Trust Fund will once again create uncertainty and lead to disruptions in states delivering their transportation programs, ultimately impacting safety, economic development and quality of life."

The ATSSA's Smith emphasized the linkage between reliable project funding and improving safety.

"A commitment to roadway safety must include fully funding transportation projects and making the Highway Trust Fund solvent," he said. "Without solving this funding challenge, we are fighting to reduce fatalities toward zero with one arm tied behind our back."  

Smith's comments were also in line with some by TRIP Executive Director Will Wilkins and Kathleen Bower, senior vice president of public affairs and international relations at the AAA motor club.

In their remarks included in the TRIP announcement of its new report, both cited the safety problems of rural roads and the need to invest in life-saving highway improvements. Wilkins said fixing the trust fund in particular "will be crucial to the modernization of our rural transportation system." (See related story.)

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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