May 21, 2014
In Northeast Ohio, we tend to complain about having two seasons - winter and orange barrel season. Those colorful barricades may slow down traffic as they restrict our highways and bi-ways but they also represent an investment in the future and we appreciate smoother roads when the construction work is done. We may have fewer orange barrels and cones to contend with - and worse roadways unless Congress passes an adequately funded Transportation Bill in the coming months.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the Federal Highway Trust Fund will run out of sufficient operating funds in early August. This is a serious matter. The Trust Fund account must maintain a $4 billion balance to meet day-to-day payment obligations for projects already underway. If the Trust Fund falls below that amount as the CBO projects, no new projects will be approved.
We have reached this situation for several reasons. When you fill up your gas tank, 18.4 cents per gallon goes to the federal gas tax that replenishes the Highway Trust Fund. The tax produces $34 billion per year in revenue. The last time the tax was increased was in 1993 and it has never been adjusted for inflation since. Add in the fact that cars have become more efficient and use less fuel and you can quickly see the tax has fallen significantly behind the level of need. No one wants a tax increase but neither can we afford to neglect our infrastructure needs. As it is, we have not kept pace with the maintenance needed to maintain safe roads and bridges, let alone invest adequately in public transportation.
How much have we fallen behind? Let’s look in our backyard.
• Ohio ranked number 11 in the country for the total number of deficient bridges • Five bridges in the state are on the top 250 most traveled structurally deficient bridges in the United States. Two on that list are in Cuyahoga County and one is in Summit County. • Eight percent, 2,242 bridges out of 27,015, are classified as structurally deficient The Republican budget cuts $1.8 billion from current spending for highway repairs and mass transit expansion. This is not the answer. The Obama Administration has proposed a $302 billion dollar plan over 4 years. It would use approximately $150 billion from corporate tax reform to cover funding not provided by the gas tax. The plan would also allow states to impose tolls on interstate highways to fund road maintenance. I am reviewing the Administration budget and look forward to options presented by colleagues in the House who share my belief that our nation needs an adequate and sensible plan to keep America moving forward. Each year, I look forward to the Congressional Art Competition, an opportunity for young artists to compete and have their artwork viewed by a wide audience. The winner from each congressional district is flown to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony and has his or her artwork on display for a year in the Cannon tunnel leading into the U.S. Capitol.
More than 125 wonderful works of art were submitted by high school students for the 11th District competition and this past Saturday, I had the pleasure of awarding certificates to students who placed in each category such as painting, drawing, photography and mixed media. I extend my congratulations to all of the students who participated. I am also pleased to announce our grand prize/best in show winner is Demetrius Carmichael, a student at the Cleveland School of the Arts, Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Congratulations Demetrius. I will be so proud to pass by your drawing, knowing thousands of other visitors will see your amazing work. The ceremony was held at the Memorial Nottingham branch of the Cleveland Public Library where all other local students’ artwork will be on display through the month of May. Please stop by the library if you can and view our talented students’ creations. You’re also welcome to view photos of the ceremony and Demetrius’ winning entry on my Facebook Page, Representative Marcia L. Fudge. I sincerely appreciate the thoughtful contribution of time and deliberation by this year’s judges, Maggie Dank-Leigh, Tony Morrison, Georgios Sabina III and Gary Williams. I also wish to thank the caring art teachers who have helped to develop our students’ talents and the Cleveland Public Library for being gracious hosts. Special thanks go to the parents and families who stand behind our young artists and nurture them to be the best they can be. Have a great week everyone.