Greater Greater Washington

Topic of the week: No more federal gas tax?

A new bill in the House of Representatives proposes eliminating the federal gas tax and making states pay for roads and transit themselves. Would that be good or bad for transportation?


Photo by RW PhotoBug on Flickr.

The Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA), by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Representative Tom Graves (R-Georgia), would virtually eliminate the federal gasoline tax over a 5-year period and devolve the responsibility of funding roads and transit to the states. It now has 19 co-sponsors in the House. We asked a few contributors to give their thoughts on how it could affect transportation funding.

David Cranor: This could be made workable. First, we could devolve gas taxes to states. Then, we could take the general funds used to enhance state funding to pay for Transportation Enhancements, recreation trails, Amtrak, TIGER, and so on.

The upside is that it gets rid of all the belly-aching and actually means less money for roads, unless states raise their gas taxes. The downside is that it reduces political support for non-car transportation.

David Edmondson: If the federal government cuts the gas tax and its investments in transportation, this would undoubtedly be bad for transit and non-car modes of transportation. But there may be a silver lining.

Despite the best efforts of advocates, federal transportation dollars overwhelmingly favor roadway projects, and most of those are highways or overbuilt arterials. And, given that these are often capital projects, the end result is high maintenance costs on localities that wouldn't have built the project in the first place if the money weren't "free" from the feds.

If states raise their own gas tax to match the loss, they'd be able to use that money how they see fit. A whole slew of federal strings would come off, freeing states to make the decisions they think they ought. While that might mean more questionable interchanges in Wisconsin, that state will actually need to pay for them entirely.

Advocates' fear that states won't raise their gas tax are certainly valid, of course. The tax discourages driving and was designed to fund infrastructure of national importance. Eliminating it would cut the federal government's ability to do either of those things. Yet the chance to cut all the bloat and waste advocates fight against and this money encourages would be quite a silver lining.

Matt Johnson: In Georgia, Graves' home state, the state constitution expressly prohibits the expenditure of gasoline tax revenues on anything other than roads, so without federal money, the Peach State would essentially only invest in highways. That's actually not a huge change.

MARTA, which operates rail, bus, and paratransit in Fulton and DeKalb counties is the largest transit agency in the country that receives no funding from the state government. Of course, MARTA was able to build their rail system using local and federal funds. But without the federal share, it would have been impossible.

Which is probably what Graves and Lee want. After all, the GOP has long suggested that investing in transit is a wasteful subsidy, while investing in roads is a sound investment for economic development.

According to Senator Lee, "Under the Transportation Empowerment Act, Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington, where sticky-fingered politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists take their cut before sending it back with strings attached." [emphasis added]

Of course, this isn't accurate. According to a Government Accountability Office report from September 2011, both Georgia and Utah are winners in the transportation dollar lottery. Both states got $1.10 back in federal transportation dollars for every $1.00 they sent to Washington between 2005 and 2009.

Of course, they're no different from the other 48 states. But wait a minute: aren't there winners and losers? Doesn't at least one state have to be a donor state?

No. Because Washington doesn't just allocate gas tax revenues. They also send general fund revenues off to transportation projects.

So not only are those sticky-fingered lobbyists not stealing from Georgians to fund highway projects in Yankeeland, but the federal government is actually gifting Georgians (and Utahans) a little extra money on the side. Or to translate that into GOP-speak, "it smacks of socialism."

The idea, of course, is to just let the states take over and use a more locally-focused approach that works best for them. Federalism and all that.

But anyone want to put the odds on whether a state like Georgia would actually raise their own gas tax to compensate? Yeah, I didn't think so.

The real goal is of course, to stop spending money on transportation altogether. But that's okay. It's DOA in the Senate.

Canaan Merchant: Any transportation project is going to try to combine its funding from all levels of government. This bill is just the latest example of trying to come up with a standard across a large country with a very diverse population and large number of situations that require specific and different solutions.

Yonah Freemark of the Transport Politic has considered the question as well. He argues that the basic scheme where the federal government provides funding for construction while states and cities pay for operations and maintenance is backward.

Local governments may benefit from being able to not have to compete against dozens of other projects for federal funding while the federal government can ensure that service doesn't take a dive in lean budget years for localities.

Now that may not be optimal in the end, but it may be beneficial to completely reconsider how and who funds transportation projects across the country.

Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

Comments

Add a comment »

If the bill, by some miracle, actually became law, and the federal government stopped directly funding highways altogether, wouldn't one of the biggest effects would be the end of the national drinking age of 21? Currently, states have to enforce a minimum drinking age of 21 or they lose their federal highway funds. If there *are* no federal highway funds to lose, well, laissez les bons temps rouler...

by EdTheRed on Nov 19, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

I wonder whether diminishing the federal role in transportation would put highways and transit on more equal footing. Today, a $250 million highway project needs only $50 million in local funding. As for transit, that same $50 million can only fund a $100 million project. From an economics point of view, highways offer better bang for your buck.

by Herbie on Nov 19, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Would this proposal render the mechanism (losing 10% of highway construction funds) of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act moot?

by thm on Nov 19, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

It is a great idea, mostly for the reasons that Yonah Freemarket has put out.

Does create the possibility of arbitrage -- going to a state based system would give certain states the ability to attract consumers based on lower tax rates. I don't think it is a race to the bottom, but it is an issue.

by charlie on Nov 19, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

Even if this ever did become law (which it won't) and federal transportation funds stopped being a thing, Congress would just attach the drinking age stipulation to some other source of federal funds. Short of 18-21 year olds turning out in unheard-of numbers at the polls, there will be no movement on this issue.

by Dizzy on Nov 19, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

One of the points of contention between the South and North before the Civil War was the creation and financing of transportation infrastructure.

It's deja vu all over again.

by Crickey7 on Nov 19, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

Herbie:Today, a $250 million highway project needs only $50 million in local funding. As for transit, that same $50 million can only fund a $100 million project. From an economics point of view, highways offer better bang for your buck.

The bulk of the 10 billionish dollars a year in federal transit funding goes out by formula (around 8 billion), where the match is 80/20, transit agencies can choose to spend this on buses and smaller infrastructure, or capital projects (some do spend it on capital projects). The match for the competitive and discretionary New Starts program (about 2 billion)- which does not exist on the highway side, is far lower - however, please don't continue the myth that all federal transit funding is subject to constaints that federal highway funding isn't. The challege to New Starts is the sheer demand for it, which fundamentally means that to accomodate need, you have to have a smaller federal match.

by AA on Nov 19, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

Federal fuel taxes also pay for NHTSA (car safety) and FMCSA (truck and bus safety). Would those be eliminated?

Tanking about trucks, the Highway Trust Fund (the main source of federal highway, transit and rail funding) also get revenue from taxes heavy-duty trucks and tires. Does this bill propose to get rid of that?

by Tim on Nov 19, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

First, the people in Georgia and Utah chose to live in sprawling, car-dependent communities. They built, bought, and voted for their high gas costs when they moved to a home 30 miles from work, 5 miles from the store, and 10 miles from school. Complaining about 18 cents a gallon on your 100-mile commute is like buying 5 big dogs and then complaining about the sales tax on dog food.

Second, these two states are probably net beneficiaries from gas tax revenues. The sponsors of this bill will be hearing from a lot of worried local officials and construction-company owners in their districts in the next few days.

Third, do we want 50 different standards of road design? Road maintenance? Driver behavior? Signage, signals, etc.? A major benefit of federal funding is the safety that comes from consistent federal standards, which states could freely ignore for their own convenience or to save some budget on construction and maintenance. Remembering that roadway fatalities are in the 30k range every year, these issues are not idle worries. Also, the business community will howl if its vehicles and drivers have to navigate 50 different sets of compliance standards. The cost and market inefficiency would be huge.

Fourth, and most broadly, we as a country have an interest in a coordinated transportation network that moves people and freight efficiently regardless of state boundaries. People, not states, are the most important decision-makers and the foundation of strong communities, economies, etc. Just as we don't want 50 standards for food safety, education, or what constitutes a fair workplace, we don't want 50 different approaches to what a road looks like.

by Scott on Nov 19, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

What are the benefits and disadvantages of federal invovlement?

Benefits as I see them: Standards, expertise (though arguably larger states have no need or can rent it easily enough, cross pollination of ideas, financing mechanism

Disadvtanges: uncertainty of regulations and timelines, round trip for your money and delays, possible net loss of funds, inflexibility in some cases to innovation, national politics

Really interesting and I think eminently debatable how this would effect spending particuarly on transit.

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

Red states have a hard enough time maintaining their critical infrastructure even with the massive subsidies funneled from the Blue states. Wouldn't this pretty much spell the end of "developed world" infrastructure in the US outside of the liberal coastal enclaves and a few urban areas?

Seems like a total non-starter.

by oboe on Nov 19, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

I can’t see how this would be even remotely beneficial to non-vehicle transportation.

According to the fhwa, of the 25 billion a year collected in the federal gas tax, 10 billion of it (40%) is siphoned off for non-road projects like transit and cycling infrastructure, something I am sure would create for drama and backlash if the average driver knew it.

Considering how hard it is to come by transit money as is, how in the world does anyone expect to replace the ~10 billion a year for transit that would vanish.

by Arg on Nov 19, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

@oboe

Every state is a "taker" with regards to federal gas disbursements, not just the red states.

by David Edmondson on Nov 19, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

It's amazing that this kind of liberatrian nonsense should be taken seriously and on its face. The idea is to cut taxes, make energy more available (and probably encourage driving, which would satisfy teh oli company backers of this), devolving the responsibility for roads to states (which don't want to raise taxes to pay for them) and ultimately to systems of toll roads, which benefit the corporate backers of proposals like this.

This would provide no incentives for transit, high speed rail or other approaches that often cross boundaries and serve a broader interest. Much as I would like to see sprawlburgs like Atlanta 9where I used to live) take more responsibility for the mess they've created, bills like this won't do it.

by Rich on Nov 19, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy: I doubt there would be the votes in Congress to get a national drinking age attached to another funding source. It's never been particularly popular among Rs, even though it was a Reagan-led initiative. Repealing it was one of the planks in Newt's Contract for America back in '96, and I can't imagine libertarian-ish Rs like Rand Paul wanting anything to do with it. Smacks too much of the federal government interfering with a right that is expressly delegated to the states by the 21st Amendment.

Of course, all it would really take to doom a new national drinking age bill completely would be for Obama to publicly support it. Then only RINOs would vote for it.

by EdTheRed on Nov 19, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

1. The gas tax is an imperfect way to fund roads. We really should switch to a VMT anyway.

2. We should continue to tax gasoline (and add in congestion) for it's negative externalities and then use that money to offset them.

3. We can still exert standards on highways.

4. Right now, the federal government takes in gas tax, mixes it with general revenue and sends it back to the states to spend on transportation. They could, instead, not take in gas taxes and send the states general revenues (including the new gas and congestion taxes) but assign it to transit/bike/other transportation uses because of their ability to reduce congestion and pollution etc...

5. Sorry, but 40% of tax funding is not siphoned off for non-road projects. It's more like 25%. And none of that is gas tax money. Gas taxes make up 67% of the total. 75% of the total goes to roads. So that's an 8% shortfall that states would now need to make up, freeing that up for transit, etc... would be a big win.

Ideally this would end up with driving that is more expensive, especially in congested corridors and for polluting vehicles; and more money for transit/biking/walking. Plus a removal of some of the political criticism of the current system.

Of course, that probably won't happen. But let's not be quick to call an attack on the status quo as a threat. It may be an opportunity.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 2:23 pm • linkreport

@Rich "ultimately to systems of toll roads, which benefit the corporate backers of proposals like this"

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

by Adam Lewis on Nov 19, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

Scott has good points. The federal role in standardizing would be put at risk.

A declining federal role that might lead to more innovation (part of the attractiveness of this idea for Tea Party people would be the opportunity to go nuts rewriting public policy in statehouses). However, I think many of the 'innovations' will be harmful. States will be largely unable to raise taxes in the current political climate, and many states would drop the ball on infrastructure maintenance at a time when the backlog of pending infrastructure repairs is a problem. Lack of funding will lead to more long term DBOM and BOM contracts, but states are not necessarily very capable at managing the long term risk of these contracts compared to investment banks who broker them for the private sector. (For example, a long term contract has to account for inflation risk, wage inflation risk, healthcare cost inflation risk, fluctuations in revenues from user fees, variable insurance costs, and higher interest rates compared to state and municipal borrowing.) Some governors are so opposed to government that they would deliberately create sweetheart deals for private infrastructure provision in the name of 'returning tax money to the private sector'. For some, this is purely ideological, and no rational examination of policy effects matters. A very large increase in concessions could also have dramatic consequences on policy flexibility due to non-compete clauses and other contractual obligations. These contracts can limit the state's choices in the future.

I suspect most states would inevitably enter a period of rising infrastructure costs, particularly as deferred maintenance piles up from lack of funding. Loss of transit funding would lead to more driving, and more congestion. I think there would be positive changes, but these positive changes would be unevenly distributed. On top of this, the loss of funding for transit would be a huge challenge for many communities.

by Solution Giver on Nov 19, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

@EdTheRed

That's before MADD takes to the airways with heartrending stories about how little Jenny was torn into a thousand little pieces by a drunk driver. There's a reason why no proposals to change the drinking age have gone anywhere, in any jurisdiction.

by Dizzy on Nov 19, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

Some of the comments are in regards to federally mandated standards. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials - an organization established in 1914 - is a body that can coordinate the rules, regulations, and safety guidlines between the states.

The U.S. was founded as federal republic; I don't think it should be too surprising that many states would like to see more decision making brought back closer to home. Some states would probably drop the ball; some states would probably excel. I think the concept of the bill has some merit, and shouldn't be so quickly dismissed as "libertarian nonsense."

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Nov 19, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

Dizzy: pretty much every other industrialized country has 18 as the age at which you can order your own alcohol, and lets parents order alcohol for their kids much younger, and have not gone to hell. Here, I can get charged for giving my kid a sip of my beer. Time for some sanity

by SJE on Nov 19, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

Just like the case here in Virginia, where NOVA residents lose out by having to pay out to other areas despite our needs for infrastructure, the same would be true for federal system.

States like NY, California, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Florida Virginia (ie the population centers) would be the net winners, and states like Indiana, Alabama, Utah, etc would be the net losers.

Despite the idea that big population states drive less (like NY) because the federal govt spends so little on infrastructure in those areas it would even out/benefit states like NY.

I say, if the GOP offers it, democrats should jump all over it just as if Richmond were to propose this, then NOVA should jump all over it

SO LONG AS

Each state(or in case of VA county) attains complete sovereignty over what it does with its gas taxes or how to assess those taxes, or whether the tax should be on gas at all instead of miles driver, etc.

by Navid Roshan on Nov 19, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

The concept of allowing different states to pursue different transportation strategies seems sound. Experimentation is the only way to empirically prove which transportation and land use ideas work well and which are disastrous. The longer the federal government backstops bad ideas, the longer they will be in place.

The biggest issue is that without federal funding, there will be little if any interstate transportation infrastructure.

by Falls Church on Nov 19, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

@EdTheRed
Exactly what I was thinking while reading this.

by Richard on Nov 19, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

Roads and transit should be funded and managed by the states and local municipalities, not the federal government. If anything it ensures greater scrutiny from those who will actually pay for it or may see the benefits from a given project.

by Fitz on Nov 19, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

Its being proposed by two republicans. Thats all the info I need to know its garbage

by JJJJ on Nov 19, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

I'm not worried about drinking age, unless I'm mistaken it's all codified in state law now so you would have to repeal those individual state laws and few people over the age of 25 or so are going to lobby to lower the drinking age. Adding that fact that most 18-20 year olds don't vote it's hard to see that happening.

by BTA on Nov 19, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

JJJJ,

It is. But it can't pass without Democrats. The question is, can Democrats negotiate this bill into something you would support and then pass it? That's the opportunity.

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

NavidRoshan -- NY State "drives less" per capita despite its size because of NYC and the fact that so many people don't use cars there, not because the state has less road infrastructure or the federal govt. somehow disses it.

Re the point by Solution Giver: Some governors are so opposed to government that they would deliberately create sweetheart deals for private infrastructure provision in the name of 'returning tax money to the private sector'. For some, this is purely ideological, and no rational examination of policy effects matters.

This is Virginia generally, HOT Lanes specifically, and the HOT Lanes projects by Gov. Ehrlich.

David C. -- I don't see how the VMT is superior to the gas tax when you take into account the ease of collecting the gas tax. The problem is not charging enough. I don't see how that will be improved with a VMT, if it goes through the same kind of approval process for changing how much is charged.

wrt Falls Church's comment and state innovation and the Feds, I think that the real problem is that most state transportation functions are dominated by a rural perspective, at this comes at the expense of the cities. There is nothing in this proposal that leads me to believe that this would change.

NY State is a perfect example--the failure of the state govt. to improve a congestion tax for NYC, how the MTA is run generally, how suburban legislators from outer boroughs make it difficult to promote pro-core transportation policies, etc. That wouldn't change with a change like this.

Maybe the best thing that Janette Sadik-Khan could do after Bloomberg is run a State DOT and make it a model DOT vis-a-vis city transpo policies.

FWIW, I didn't do a write up of a seminar I went to featuring Martin Wachs. When he was asked about what the fed. excise gas tax should be to cover the needs, he said that he considers credible estimates of 60 cents/gallon. No one asked and it would have to be done at the state level to figure out what state and local gas taxes should be.

FWIW/2, there is a proposal out (I don't think it will win) to increase the Cal. car tax to pay for roads.

http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/11/california-transportation-leaders-seek-car-tax-hike-for-road-repairs.html

Since Washington State has authorized votes for increasing local car registration fees to fund transit and transpo., I don't think one has been approved.

FWIW/3, the thing that Martin Wachs said about VMT that makes me think it is interesting is the ability to add other "value added services" to such a tax method, like Insurance charges per mile, etc.

by Richard Layman on Nov 19, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

David, JJJJ,
I wasn't thinking about it earlier when I wrote originally but Virginia's new transportation law may be a model. It was pretty awful as first proposed but turned into something that eventually gave Northern Va. more money than it had before.

by Canaan on Nov 19, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

I don't see how the VMT is superior to the gas tax when you take into account the ease of collecting the gas tax.

Electric cars, inflation, rising fuel efficiency. Gas taxes don't actually tax people for driving, they tax people for buying gasoline and the two are not the same thing. If we want it to be a user tax, it should be a user tax. Gentlemen, we have the technology. We can rebuild this. We can make it better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster. Chi-chi-chi-chi....

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

I am not certain about this whole thing. Is it in the federal interest to have a freeway connecting Seattle and Chicago? I would say yes. Would Montana and North Dakota, left to their own devices, maintain this freeway? Certainly not.

The whole system is FUBAR, and ultimately a VMT is needed, or a large increase in the gas tax. We are the only industrialized country in the world that has to subsidize roads. Everywhere in Europe makes money off of their roads, yet we add an extra 30 billion a year to our debt to pay for ours..

by Kyle-w on Nov 19, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport


Would Montana and North Dakota, left to their own devices, maintain this freeway? Certainly not.

How so? Montana is about as freeway dependent as states go. North Dakota has every interest to maintain viable freeways to accommodate heavy vehicles for their natural gas and oil industries.

by Fitz on Nov 19, 2013 5:33 pm • linkreport

"I am not certain about this whole thing. Is it in the federal interest to have a freeway connecting Seattle and Chicago? I would say yes. Would Montana and North Dakota, left to their own devices, maintain this freeway? Certainly not."

Yes and no.

Monanta yes because there's not a whole lot of other routes to cross the state on. I-90 is the only freeway that connects...well all of Montana's cities.

North Dakota no because I-90 is in South Dakota.

by Another Nick on Nov 19, 2013 5:39 pm • linkreport

@Fitz and Another Nick

I just don't buy it tbh. Without any sort of federal funding, even if Montana would pay for these roads (which I am not certain they could come close to affording) you will start getting ridiculous horse trading about funding near state borders.

Perhaps better example is Nevada. I-80 runs from Sacramento to Salt Lake, with Reno, and a ton of NOTHINGNESS in between. Is Nevada going to pay for that road?? There is no chance.

Citizens of Las Vegas (where the majority of the state resides) could care less about connecting Northern California to Utah... So then Utah and Nevada California have to come to some sort of funding arrangement for that road? No way does that happen either. There would be no interest in a toll road there, as there is no money to be made due to not enough traffic, hence the thing shuts down.

by Kyle-w on Nov 19, 2013 5:44 pm • linkreport

http://www.interstate-guide.com/i-080.html

Indicates that portions of Nevada get 4500 vehicles a day. Probably 50% of which are trucks. Is it in the national interest? I would still say yes.

Would Nevada, CA, or Utah pay for this portion? No way.

by Kyle-w on Nov 19, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

It's not a matter of choice: Montana would have no other option but to fund it. There's only two roads (seriously, look at a map) that lead east out of Helena. One of them is I-90.

According to a Utah DOT report from 2010, I-80 in Nevada is only 14% trucks. The railroad transcons have crushed western long haul trucking.

by Another Nick on Nov 19, 2013 8:45 pm • linkreport

I think kyle-w has a good point, but I think the federal government could make a "national defense" argument to force states to keep highways in good report. A requirement that the current Interstate Highway system be maintained to national standards in the interest of defense should be included in the law (along with a process for closing obsolete sections after some sort of review)

by David C on Nov 19, 2013 9:48 pm • linkreport

I'd be all for it with one stipulation: We tear up every mile of Federally Gas Tax Funded Interstate in Utah and Georgia. Let them build it their own way.

by hoos30 on Nov 19, 2013 11:10 pm • linkreport

The federal gas tax should be over three (3) dollars a gallon. The EU understood how to raise the money for transportation and how to prevent mindless waste for generations yet we have done next to nothing to prevent waste and needless levels of greenhouse gas creation. As we say goodbye to our sea level cities and land we can rest assured that calamity would have been put off by 50 years if we had not wasted so much energy and irreplaceable fossil fuel the last 50 years. The science community started raising alarms about climate change in the 1960s – we could have smart and changed course then. Tax the stuff for real now and help to slow the wholesale changes coming.

by AndrewJ on Nov 20, 2013 7:07 am • linkreport

The one good thing is could states start tolling interstate highways? The idea that people shouldnt have to pay to drive between states is silly. And I assume as long as you aren't tolling the actual borders that would resolve any constitutional issues?

by BTA on Nov 20, 2013 9:07 am • linkreport


I just don't buy it tbh. Without any sort of federal funding, even if Montana would pay for these roads (which I am not certain they could come close to affording) you will start getting ridiculous horse trading about funding near state borders.

On what do you base the idea that Montana couldn't afford it? Montana needs interstate commerce as much as any other state and this requires adequate highways. State and local governments have a higher incentive to better prioritize their budgets without the federal government dangling bundles of cash in front of them for projects they may not need or could be optimized in other ways.

by Fitz on Nov 20, 2013 9:21 am • linkreport

@Fitz

Just simple math. Montana has 1,191 miles of interstate freeway, and 1.005 million people, or .0012 miles/person. Wyoming has 913 miles and 576,000 people, .0016 miles/person.

Resurfacing costs roughly .7million (on the low end) per lane mile. For Wyoming to resurface all 913 miles (likely 2 lanes each direction) 3652 lane miles, would cost 2.556billion. Or $4,437.5/person. Do you think the Wyoming State Legislature is going to spend billions of dollars (of LOCAL money) working on freeways far from their population centers?

Of course you can spread that over some time, but the numbers just don't work. Given complete local control, Wyomings lets these things languish (by necessity) and we lose the federal highway system.

by Kyle-w on Nov 20, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

With that said, I could see this working, but it takes federal involvement. Set a floor of say .75c, that every state is required to collect in gas taxes (or VMT or whatever) and force them to lockbox that money into transportation infrastructure. Then Wyoming is forced to spend that 2.5 billion, but I don't think the republicans would go for that.

by Kyle-w on Nov 20, 2013 9:44 am • linkreport

Agree with Scott on this one

Rich - let's not take the law and put it's regulation and creation into private hands again.

We're closer tech-wise to being able to create a user tax, but socially not ready.

Punt on this, index the gas tax until we are forced to revisit it. Let's get projects moving.

by CapHillResident on Nov 20, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

@ Kyle-w,

I appreciate the back of the envelope calcs here but it seems to me that there's a lot of missing or misleading information. For example I think a more accurate measure of usage, and therefore maintenance/refurbishment costs, would be vehicle-miles for given types of vehicles (i.e. personal sedans and trucks vs. commercial trailers) for given segments of highway. I think it's reasonable to believe that Montana would pay for upkeep of roads far from population centers, especially if those routes are necessary for commerce at those population centers and since they would most likely require lower costs due to low vehicle-miles traveled on said roads.

by Fitz on Nov 20, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

@Fitz

Fair enough. We will certainly have to agree to disagree :) I think there is no chance that residents of the couple of large cities in Montana are going to pay precious transportation dollars for freeways hundreds of miles from their home, but again, this is very much an opinion, so agree to disagree.

by Kyle-w on Nov 20, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Fair enough.

by Fitz on Nov 21, 2013 8:54 am • linkreport

@ Rich 'n Alexandria: I agree this should not be treated as nonsense. However, I think the question is what kind of 'innovation' would emerge from it. I put innovation into quotes because, frankly, much of the change would likely be 1) states failing to respond adequately to the challenge of raising state funding to pay for transportation and 2) states doing things they already do.

I think that the state of our national politics suggests this reform may be one of the few major changes in transportation policy that could gain traction. It should be looked at seriously. It might somehow become a countervailing force to sprawl if states start to ration funding.

Has anyone mentioned the impact this would have on MPOs and on AQ?

by Solution Giver on Nov 21, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or