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Territorial Delegates seek help with highway funding

In a joint letter this week to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, territorial delegates are asking for support in Congress to keep the Territorial Highway and the Puerto Rico Highway programs funded through the Highway Trust Fund.

The letter, addressed to Committee chairman John L. Mica, voiced the delegates concerns regarding Section 1103 of H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, “which would change the source of funding for the highway programs in our jurisdictions.” 

Under the bill, annual allocations for the Puerto Rico Highway Program and the Territorial Highway Program would no longer be funded from the National Highway Trust Fund, which has been the historical funding source for these programs, the letter says.

“Instead, our highway programs would be funded from a new ‘alternative transportation account’ that would be funded through a one-time, $40 billion transfer from the General Fund,” according to the delegates, which includes Congressman Faleomavaega Eni.

“...we are deeply concerned that the proposed change could ultimately place these critical programs in jeopardy, because their funding would no longer be tied to a dedicated source of revenue,” they wrote. “To the contrary, allocations to the territories would have to compete for funding against, among other things, transit projects in all 50 States, since funding for these projects is also being migrated from the National Highway Trust Fund to the alternative transportation account.”

If funding for the alternative transportation account runs out, as could well be the case, the territories would have to compete for their federal highway funds in the annual appropriations process, with no legal assurances that funding levels would not be reduced.

To obviate this risk, the delegates said they have filed an amendment to H.R. 7 that would continue the long-standing practice of funding the Puerto Rico Highway Program and the Territorial Highway Program through the Highway Trust Fund.

Faleomavaega in a separate news release said the House is scheduled to begin floor consideration of HR 7 later, including discussion on the delegates’ amendment.

“It is important for all the House members to hear about the concerns and needs of the Territories, and I commend my colleagues from the Territories for their efforts and hard work on this important issue,” Faleomavaega concluded.