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What happens when there’s no money to repair our highways

If you took to the road on the July 4th holiday weekend you may have noticed less road construction than usual for this time of year, along with fewer delays. That's because the federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money.

The balance now stands near $4 billion and the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates it will be depleted sometime in August if Congress doesn't act.

Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) have introduced a bill to raise the federal gasoline tax by 65% and the diesel tax by 59% to replenish the fund, but that’s not going anywhere, says Greg Valliere, chief political analyst at Potomac Research Group.

"We're not going to have a gasoline tax hike in an election year," Valliere tells Yahoo Finance. "I suspect any member of Congress up for re-election this fall would view that as a pretty bad idea."

The federal gasoline tax hasn't changed for 21 years, and remains at 18.4 cents a gallon (24.4 for diesel).

President Obama said last week if Congress doesn't act, states will have to choose between which highway projects to continue and which ones to shut down, putting as many as 700,000 jobs at risk. "That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver, or Seattle, or Boston," said Obama, standing beside the Key Bridge, one of five bridges that connects Washington, DC to Virginia and is used by more than 100,000 commuters daily.

Valliere says there could be "a little patch" applied to the Highway Trust Fund that maintains it through Election Day but after that "a bigger problem still looms."

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