Rep. Garret Graves, R- La., a skeptic about using Highway Trust Fund money for mass transit. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
At the height of the Cold War, defense analyst Herman Kahn wrote Thinking About the Unthinkable, a book which tried to inform readers about what would happen in a nuclear conflict.
When it comes to mass transit funding, “thinking about the unthinkable” is the idea that Congress might someday cut off money from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) which has been spent on subways, bus systems, and other forms of mass transit since the 1980s.
Approximately 80 percent of HTF money is spent on highways and 20 percent on mass transit.
Most of the roughly $40 billion a year that goes into the trust fund comes from taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel paid by people who drive cars and trucks.
At a hearing Wednesday of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, some Republican members skeptically quizzed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx about why HTF money must go to mass transit, and whether the funds would be better spent on highways.
On Thursday, American Public Transportation Association President Michael Melaniphy fired back.
“There has been bipartisan support for federal investment in public transportation through the federal gas tax since 1983 when, under President Reagan, fuels tax revenues were dedicated to public transportation through the Mass Transit Account of the surface transportation legislation,” he said.