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DC Insider: Running on empty – the Highway Trust Fund and motorcycling

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Passing a new highway bill is quickly becoming one of the last issues Congress must grapple with before the midterm elections in November.

Yet, the bill is vitally important to all highway users, especially motorcyclists.

Absent congressional action, by the end of July the Highway Trust Fund will have to slow reimbursements to states for highway projects.

As a result, new surface transportation projects and maintenance may slow during the summer construction months, leaving motorists of all types with a system of poorly maintained roads.

The drain on the trust fund already affects planners at the state and local levels, as they struggle to prioritize short-term maintenance and new long-term road projects amid budget uncertainties.

Failure to pass a new long-term bill will mean more potholes and congestion.

But, just as important, without legislation to reauthorize highway programs, many of the motorcycling community’s other concerns will go unaddressed.

For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would continue to have authority to issue grants for controversial motorcycle-only checkpoints. As a result, these discriminatory and ineffective checkpoints could, make cross-country travel to events such as Americade a hassle for millions of riders over the summer.

Then there’s the Recreational Trails Program. Without reauthorization, the RTP would lose its authority to issue grants to fund off-highway-vehicle projects and trails at the height of the riding season.

Perhaps most importantly, motorcycle safety programs under 23 U.S.C. § 402 and § 405 no longer would be authorized.

As a result, the government would no longer provide grants to states for motorcycle safety training or anti-distracted-driving campaigns. Both programs have proven extremely effective in making the roads safer for motorcyclists.

The overall economy would be hit hard as well. It is estimated that failure to top off the trust fund would result in 700,000 lost jobs.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a portion of the bill on May 15. However, the U.S. House of Representatives must still act. The House version of the bill is expected sometime in July.

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