AUGUSTA — The condition of U.S. roads and bridges will continue to be poorer than in other countries if more funding isn’t devoted to infrastructure projects, a former U.S. secretary of transportation told an industry gathering Thursday.

Ray LaHood, a keynote speaker at the 64th annual Maine Transportation Conference, told industry members to pressure their congressional leaders to pass a longer-term transportation bill and shore up the struggling Highway Trust Fund by increasing federal fuel taxes.

“What’s happened around the country is America has become one big pothole, and in states where they haven’t put the resources into infrastructure, you have crumbling roads, bridges that are falling down,” LaHood said at the Augusta Civic Center.

LaHood, who served as transportation secretary from 2009 to 2013, said the state of Maine has made good progress, but he cautioned that the nation’s transportation infrastructure would continue to suffer without providing more funding. Transportation systems, such as the Interstate Highway System first authorized in 1956, are important to attract business, LaHood said.

“How are we going to rebuild our state, our communities, create economic development, create jobs for our friends and neighbors if we don’t have the resources?” he said.

The highway fund, used to pay for repairs to the country’s transportation systems, has faced financial difficulties in recent years. Federal gasoline and diesel taxes, on which it largely relies for funding, haven’t increased since 1993, while improved vehicle fuel efficiency has constrained gas sales.

In July, federal lawmakers passed a stopgap measure to prevent the highway fund from running dry in August, jeopardizing 117,000 transportation jobs around the country. But the transfers from the general fund were offset by extending customs fees and a budget process allowing corporations to reduce contributions to employee pension plans, according to The Washington Post.

LaHood said that although public-private partnerships, tolls and other federal funding programs can help improve the country’s infrastructure, increasing the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax is necessary. If the government had tied fuel taxes to inflation in 1993, when they were last raised, the Highway Trust Fund wouldn’t be running out of money.

“We’re not going to rebuild America, we’re not going to turn America from one big pothole to the kind of system we had once, maybe 10 years ago, unless we have a big pot of money. That’s my point,” LaHood said.

Gov. Paul LePage, who spoke before LaHood, warned attendees that the state wouldn’t be increasing its own gas tax.

“I just wanted to let all of Maine know it’s not an option. We’re not interested in raising the gas tax. We are interested in finding new ways, creative ways, innovative ways to get an infrastructure” without putting the burden on taxpayers, LePage said.

The state collects about 30 cents per gallon in taxes, the 19th-highest gas tax in the country, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The 30 cents is just under the national average.

LaHood said he wasn’t advocating for a higher state gas tax in Maine, but he favors raising the federal tax as part of a six-year transportation bill. Before becoming transportation secretary, LaHood served for 14 years as a Republican U.S. representative from Illinois.

Public opinion polls show a mix of support and opposition to raising gas taxes, depending on the size of the increase and what it would be used for.

Research published in 2014 by the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose, California, found that a 10 cents-per-gallon increase was supported by 69 percent of respondents if the revenue was used to improve road maintenance, but support dropped to 25 percent if it was used more generally to maintain and improve the transportation system.