By on April 30, 2014

Syracuse Road Construction - Utah DOT

A $302 billion, four-year plan to fund the U.S. Highway Trust Fund — and, in turn, any road and transit projects on the table during the period — was brought before Congress by the Obama administration through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports the proposal would add $87 billion on top of what is currently in the trust fund in order to bring much-needed dollars to the many bridges and transit systems seeking rehabilitation while creating “millions of jobs” and, thus, boosting the economy, according to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The fund, currently subsisting on gasoline and diesel taxes, would be funded by a temporary tax increase on overseas earnings by companies, which is the method proposed by President Barack Obama back in February 2014 in his budget request.

Meanwhile, both houses of Congress are seeking six-year funding proposals, though none have any financial resources to draw upon thus far. Further, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have claimed there currently are not enough votes to raise the 18.4-cent tax levied per gallon of gasoline to boost the trust fund’s coffers. One such proposal, made in 2012, failed due to being unable to decide upon a funding source, resulting in a two-year stop-gap measure funded through general tax revenue to keep construction projects moving forward.

The proposal also requested an increase in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s maximum fine for automakers who fail to issue recall notices on defective vehicles in a timely manner. The current maximum fine of $35 million would rise to $300 million “to ensure when a violation occurs it is more than a rounding error,” Foxx explained.

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98 Comments on “Obama Administration Delivers $302 Billion Transportation Funding Proposal Before Congress...”


  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    18.4 cents per gallon. Yes folks, it’s so politically poisonous to ROUND up the price of gas that the government would rather tax anything else, including marijuana. They could DOUBLE the tax on gas and no one would ever even notice if but for the inner party bitching and moaning. Meanwhile, the roads and bridges rot out from under us.

    • 0 avatar
      Sgt Beavis

      Politically, I lean fairly conservative and yet I totally agree with you. Our society in general has become so poisoned to the word “taxation” that they will oppose all forms of it. I am opposed to income redistribution types of tax but gasoline taxes actually give us something in return. WE GET ROADS! With more roads, we get less traffic congestion. We get to work more quickly which increases productivity. We have less pollution because our cars aren’t idling in traffic. Commerce in general cost less.

      In Texas, we haven’t raised the gas tax in over 20 years. Meanwhile, the cost of asphalt, steel, labor, etc, etc has continued to grow. Rick Perry’s Sec of Transportation said we must have toll roads or no roads. Never mind a simple 5 to 10 cent rise in the tax would easily cover all our needs. Now we have to deal with these crooked non governmental organizations like the NTTA which raise tolls on a whim and give next to no representation to the citizenry.

      Even the Obama administration is prepared to let the States put toll roads on the interstate system to pay for repairs, reconstruction, or expansion. If you think a gas tax hike is bad, wait until you have to pay an additional $10 to drive to work everyday.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        There are some who already do that. Ever hear of EZ Pass in use in the northeast?

        I agree, there are too many people who believe taxes are merely a redistribution of wealth–in fact, one Libertarian newsletter just today states that income taxes are SOLELY for the purpose of wealth redistribution and ‘control of the public’. They’re not and never have been. A country needs taxes in order to pay for the things that keep that country operating. While I fully agree that the tax code is grossly in favor of giving loopholes to the wealthy and corporate entities, these taxes ARE needed–all of them. The changes that are required are ones to close those loopholes and balance the load between those who can afford it and those who can’t. But I don’t expect to ever see that.

        • 0 avatar
          FractureCritical

          toll roads are a great revenue source, BUT it’s tough to keep sticky fingers out of the coffers. Toll road revenue is usually just to be spent on the toll road, but there are a thousand ways to skim off the top.

          the state DOT needs a new interchange? well, that interchange “serves” the toll road, so make the toll authority pay for it.

          your transit agency needs a new rail line? well, that rail line “Reduces congestion on the toll road” so make the toll authority pay for it.

          your state DOT has a crappy old road or big bridge they can’t afford to fix? easy! just “sell” it to the toll authority for $1, (or preferrably, and if you can get away with it many, many millions of dollars) – and then don’t let them toll it.

      • 0 avatar

        The tolls hurt even more when your money goes to Wall Street because publicly built roads were privatized, like the Chicago Skyway was by Daley.

        • 0 avatar
          asapuntz

          You can argue about the terms of the contract, but I don’t see anything wrong with them in principle…

          I’ve driven many miles of private toll road in “socialist Europe”. While it was expensive, it was a huge improvement over any US interstate.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          >>The tolls hurt even more when your money goes to Wall Street because publicly built roads were privatized, like the Chicago Skyway was by Daley.<<

          The Chicago machine has looted practically everything. They even sold the parking lots and parking meters. I believe the Cook county sales tax is something like 10%. And they spent it all.

          I just read some poll that people in IL hate living in their state. The Chicago machine is good reason.

          Half the people in Illinois want out of Illinois
          http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/04/30/half-the-people-in-illinois-hate-living-in-illinois/

          Comment: “Actually what the poll should say, is that the people in downstate Illinois want Chicago OUT of Illinois. We want it to become its own separate place, let it tax and support itself, not have us do it.”

          Look at that map, it seems people in TX are a lot happier to be in TX than say people in CA are to be denizens there.

      • 0 avatar
        JK43123

        I would rather see a gas tax than the expense of building toll booths, collection, etc. Plus with gas prices dropping and jumping practically daily, who would notice if the gas tax went up a couple pennies?

        John

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Toll roads are from a strictly budgetary sense a handout to private ownership of our roads. If you’re a conservative and hate redistribution then fight against toll roads along with me. The accounting numbers never make sense because a relatively minimum raise in the income tax rate or gas tax could pay for the offset but toll roads basically let the private ‘managers’ reap all the profit and hold the road hostage for decades.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Common Ground, Xeranar!

          On the conservative side, the pro toll road people are kidding themselves. There are pay as you go libertarian types who don’t realize the practical problems and bad incentives. Then there is the privatize everything crowd who can’t figure that privatization can make things worse when there is no real competition created for businesses to compete on.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        If they were really concerned about lack of money they would look at the cost and how an archaic law – Davis-Bacon – artificially inflates cost to benefit special interests.

        “Davis-Bacon requires federally subsidized construction contractors to pay union wages and follow union work rules. Some moderate Democrats, represented by Mickey Kaus in the blogosphere, have opposed Davis-Bacon for years because it raises the costs of government construction while favoring established contractors and skilled union workers over their less-established competitors. Other Democrats, however, ably represented by Matt Yglesias, argue that Davis-Bacon helps unions, and unions help the Democrats and liberal causes more generally, so Davis-Bacon is a good thing, even if it’s a wasteful law.”

        “In the 1970s, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO – formerly the General Accounting Office) published a report titled, “The Davis-Bacon Act Should Be Repealed”.[11] The GAO summarized its argument as

        Significant changes in economic conditions, and the economic character of the construction industry since 1931, plus the passage of other wage laws, make the act unnecessary.

        After nearly 50 years, the Department of Labor has not developed an effective program to issue and maintain current and accurate wage determinations; it may be impractical to ever do so.

        The act results in unnecessary construction and administrative costs of several hundred million dollars annually (if the construction projects reviewed by GAO are representative) and has an inflationary effect on the areas covered by inaccurate wage rates and the economy as a whole.”
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davis%E2%80%93Bacon_Act

        Replace “millions” w/ “billions”.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      We are up to what, 70% transfer payments for the entire fed budget? Conservative voters don’t even trust Republican politicians to respect the “trust fund”. With good reason, it was raided for years. The liberals want middle and upper earners to pay for low earners’ pollution and road use in addition to there own I suppose because why else oppose this increase.

      Of course the gas tax should be raised, and of course we could get a lot of things straightened up if we could agree to play by some rules. Maybe we should write a Constitution or something?

      • 0 avatar
        Charliej

        We have a Constitution. Unfortunately we also have a political party that is so deranged that it will do nothing to help the US, for fear of helping the president. Blind hatred is not a viable political stance, except for the tea party types. Fortunately, time will remove most of the haters within the next few years. Now if the country can last long enough to put the tea party types behind (or beneath) us. I am from Alabama, so I know the effects of conservatism and tea party thinking. Look at the old South, very poor education, very poor health care, shorter life expectancies, lower pay for most types of work. Having lived in Alabama, except for my time in the Navy, from birth till retirement. I really don’t want to see the rest of the country damned, as the South is damned. People in the rest of the country need to look at Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana and ask, is this what I want for my children and grandchildren.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          That’s a nice fairy tail. Seems the only only one w/ a problem following the Constitution is the prez.

          He had carte blanche his first two years in office and spent nearly 1 trillion$ on “stimulus” which was supposed to prioritize “shovel ready jobs”. They never happened.

          He could have had every pothole filled in this country a thousand times over, but somehow the money went to little effect elsewhere. The voters’ reaction was to hand his party the greatest mid-term defeat since 1936. And his reaction? Refusing to compromise as other prezes have done.

          As for the South, it’s in far better shape now than when your party controlled it, and if economic trends continue it will the South that will be looking good in a few decades as your party will have worked its magic on the North ala Detroit and Chicago. The North is hemorrhaging jobs and eager transplants to the South – something like 40% of the jobs created in the illusory recovery have occurred in Texas alone and from the looks of it, people like it there:
          http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/04/30/half-the-people-in-illinois-hate-living-in-illinois/

          • 0 avatar

            “He had carte blanche his first two years in office”
            That is factually wrong, He never had a blank check the Republicans obstructed and filibustered everything they could. The only time he had both houses of congress was the time after Al Franken won the recount and until Ted Kennedy died and Scott Brown was elected not two years.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Landcrusher:

        “Liberals” (well, some of us, anyway), also favor replacing most or all od the income tax with a carbon tax.

        A carbon tax is basically a gas tax, at least from a consumer’s perspective.

        The reasoning is that taxing something discourages it. Most liberals don’t like carbon emissions or pollution, but do like income. Simple argument.

        The reality is more complex, of course (gas taxes tend to have a regressive impact), and it would take time for the economy to adapt to such a big change. But the argument is deliciously simple, and these are aolvable problems. We’re amazed that people across the political spectrum aren’t in favor of reducing the income tax this way.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Why would you fund roads with an excise tax? Excise tax is a per unit tax because it is designed to offset the cost of regulation and oversight. Gasoline excise was a politically convenient way to raise taxes on wealthy Americans, who were the only people with cars, at one point.

      Post roads are explicitly mentioned in the US Constitution as an enumerated power of Congress, and we’ve learned the importance of roads for national security as well. If ever there was a program designed for the general fund, the interstate system is it.

      Furthermore, if gasoline excise taxes are raised, which demographics cannot avoid the tax? Generally lower-income citizens and the fixed-income elderly. Social Security Grandma with her old Panther V8 TownCar is paying for the roads, while the wealthy guy in his Tesla Model S is contributing nothing. No, thanks. That kind of America is not for me.

      Gasoline excise was never the right way to fund roads, it was the politically viable method at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        The fixed income panther owner is paying next to nothing in gas taxes while receiving transfer payments from the Tesla owners income taxes so really all we need is an odometer tax on the Tesla rather than reinventing the wheel. US fuel taxes are likely the most efficient taxes ever in the history of the universe. We need to be looking at some really serious fairness issues before giving up on the billions it would cost to change the system, and yes, I do mean billions with a “B”.

        The nanny state and fed worker unions would really love to get a gps in your car for a per mile tax. You won’t get better roads, you get worse roads, higher taxes, political corruption, and a new bureaucracy along with privacy loss. Dumbest idea ever for the non government citizens and likely even existing non management government workers whose bosses will now have a new tool to build a case to ruin them.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          Odometer tax is reinventing the wheel for no discernible reason. Eliminating gasoline excise and funding with general revenue is as simple as bumping effective income tax rates. Do you think anyone pays attention to the phase out regulations, personal exemptions, or standard deduction?

          The populace will be happy to see gasoline prices fall by $.20 in one day, and they’ll never really notice that their withholding went up by $10 per paycheck. States with budgetary problems or anti-CO2 agendas can bump their gasoline excise tax rates, if necessary. The federal government will no longer crowd-out their receipts by raising federal gasoline tax.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            An odometer tax is simply a way to deal with cars that can’t be taxed at the pump. It’s not reinventing the wheel at all, it’s just adding fairness to a great system.

            Putting roads on general taxes is going in the wrong direction for both the environment AND the roads. Politicians hate maintenance. They don’t want to spend a dime on a road unless they can get credit for it. They will let it fail before fixing it or wait until they can justify an expansion so they can put their name on it

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Yes, because ALL THOSE TESLAS are really killing the system, am I right? Eh eh? No? You mean that the per gallon tax is meant to inflict more tax burden on people who consume a disproportionate amount of an expensive and limited fuel supply? You don’t say!

        Ok, jokes aside: The people who are hit hardest by the gas tax are the poor and fixed income crowd but the panthers are vanishing. But lets not try and paint this as Tesla’s getting away cheap. The biggest tax givers are over-the-road-semis, box trucks, large trucks, step vans, and delivery trucks. In terms of normal non-business consumers you’re probably looking at big V8s in luxury cars. The system is fairly simple and is designed to tax people on their proportional use of fuel. If a Yaris and a 40K Semi are driving down the road the odo tax wouldn’t account for that except for different class recognitions which would add complexity to a system for no good reason and add another layer of payment collection to a system that already works fine.

      • 0 avatar
        JD-Shifty

        That’s code for UN commissars telling Americans what the temperature’s going to be in our outdoors. I say let the world warm up. Let’s see what Boutros Boutros Ghali Ghali has to say about that. We’ll grow oranges in Alaska!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well I hope whatever anyone’s personal political leanings are they can agree that infrastructure work needs done. Ike might well be spinning in his grave over the conditions of the highway system.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Ike should have stuck to the German Autobahn model–the roads were built with a very thick concrete layer designed to last a minimum of 50 years before needing repairs. Ike’s highway used half as much which is why it started breaking down so quickly. Asphalt is a veneer at best, offering only 5 to 10 years at most before needing replacement.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        One thing I’d like to see is the transportation department convene a consortium of interested parties (Google, carmakers, Tier 1 suppliers) to develop a set of standards for road building that would enable autonomous driving. Essentially, the formula for roadside sensors and transmitters that would enable open source development of self-driving cars.

        Then I can realize my dream of installing in a small, electrified van a shower and elliptical machine and save myself 60 minutes/day of staring at traffic.

        • 0 avatar
          gtrslngr

          …. all fine well and good once … A) Autonomous actually becomes viable [ it is not ] … B) There is enough excess funds to finance such futuristic and possibly Science Fiction project [ there is not ]

          In Summation ; Fix … the problem at hand first . Then … worry about all the possible options etc .

          See … thats Obama’s main problem . He keeps addressing and spending all our Tax Money on Pie in the Sky dreams rather than focusing on the genuine needs at hand . Leaving everyone except those in charge of the Pie in the Sky dreams [ Elon Musk .. Google etc ] with empty pockets and life in general an even worse mess than it already was

          Focus on the Basics [ or Keep It Simple Stupid if you prefer ]

          Then worry about the dreams of a future than may never come to pass

          ‘Cause this aint Popular Science/Science Fiction son . This is Real Life we’re discussing

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            GTR,
            If you are going to disagree with me, I am going to have to get all math-y on you.

            Let’s say you have a population of 100 million workers, each of whom would save 30 minutes/day that they could use to be more productive. And let’s say they make on average $20/hour. We’re being conservative.

            That extra productivity, from not having to stare at traffic, is worth $250B in additional annual productivity. If Uncle Sam take 30% of that in income and payroll taxes, that means $75B annually.

            Which would more than pay for the road upgrades that would make autonomous cars possible.

            Where would the $ come from? If you are a right wing nutbag, you could look to the 1% private investors to foot the bill and be paid out of the resulting extra productivity. Left wing nutbags would look to their commie government to foot the bill. The rest of us won’t care, the point is we would all gain from the improved productivity.

            This is the kind of forward looking investment that can put America back on top again.

          • 0 avatar
            gtrslngr

            @VoGo –

            1)That is not math my friend . That is abject fantasy put forth by those in line to profit from such ill conceived concepts

            2) As stated . there are immediate N-E-E-D-S that need to be addressed before such fantasies can even be so much as contemplated

            3) According to friends [ head of Artificial Intelligence at two major Universities ] Autonomous vehicles will not be viable or available for general use for at least another ten years

            4) The disrepair of the roads at present not only create inconvenience … but a danger to the general public as well as an expense to all that use the roads & highways systems [ excess wear and tear on all aspects of the automobile ... including yours ]

            5) The bridges in their current state of disrepair are now to the point of becoming a life threatening hazard to any and all that use them … including the Rail system

            So No Go VoGo ! Like I said . Thats not math . Thats Uninformed Fantasy based economics on the best of days .. spending massive amounts of money we [ US tax payers ] Do Not have .. on projects we currently neither need .. want [ most of us ] .. or would benefit from any time in the near or distant future .

            In closing . As much as BigTruck has been blinded by the extreme right . Don’t follow suit yourself by being equally blinded by the Pie in the Sky – Can’t comprehend reality to save their lives extreme left … Because like the extreme right .. their only intent is to Profit by your ignorance and compliance …at the expense of yours and my very well being .

          • 0 avatar
            TOTitan

            gtrslngr “He keeps addressing and spending all our Tax Money on Pie in the Sky dreams”

            Please elaborate. Seems to me most of the $ has been spent cleaning up the financial meltdown, unfunded foreign wars, bankrupt domestic auto industry, etc that were left to the current administration to deal with by W.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Much of the Interstate System IS concrete, but it still has that 50 year lifespan, and the Interstate System was begun in 1959. We’re now in the replacement stage, at many times the cost of the original.

    • 0 avatar
      gtrslngr

      PrincipalDan – I do agree completely . Our highways and biways infrastructure nationwide is on the verge of collapse . From bridges to pot holes to entire stretches of Interstates in dire need of repair/replacement our highway system is a goram mess

      What I DO NOT agree with though is the Obama administrations direction to remedy the situation

      What is needed is NOT an overall generic funding setting itself up for abuse and graft … but rather a Shovel Ready , strictly overseen WPA style system to be put in place . Strict [ and somewhat harsh if you know your history ] rules of employment and all .

      Enough of all these politically correct tactics and strategies . What with all the folks out there unemployed [ some going on six or more years ] … the massive amount of repairs and replacement needed just to keep our highways etc open …..

      What is needed is a hardcore … strictly Government overseen [ unlike all the bailouts ] system put in place to get this country back on its feet . It worked once . And done right it can work again . Done right I’d be the first in line to vote for it . But as long as we keep throwing money around like its an endless supply with little or no restrictions on its use …..

      We’ll just keep going right on down the same financial hill we’ve been on since 9/11/2001 and has only gotten worse since 2008

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Back then Ike helped sell the interstate as part of war preparedness. Even then the US had trouble figuring out basic keynesian economic theory in the most practical form and with a whole wing within the right-wing being anti-spending to the point of willfully cutting their nose off to spite their face (Texas and several other red-controlled states are unpaving roads…) getting this passed will be difficult. The biggest issue is we didn’t need to let it get this bad. By paying a little every year and doing normal preventative maintenance we could have cut this bill by a 1/3rd or more.

  • avatar
    trackratmk1

    To put this into context, shortly after the EPA announces we are ahead of target in meeting CAFE’s evermore stringent MPG targets, the DOT announces our gas taxes won’t be able to fund our infrastructure.

    Looks like the emperor forgot his clothes again (at risk of inciting an argument, this is NOT a reference to any individual in office, rather the collective largess and tail chasing of the gov’t in general).

    You certainly can’t have more fuel efficient cars and generate the same gas tax revenue (all else being equal). The shortfall in infrastructure funding has gone back many, many years but these agencies can’t have it both ways.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, and vice-versa. This isn’t talking about political parties but rather about how the different offices in our government don’t talk to each other and rely on Congress to fill the gaps.

      However, even your statement leaves out the fact that there are far more cars and trucks on American roads than ever before. Supposedly (but not necessarily) the reduced demand generated by higher fuel mileage should be balanced by more vehicles needing fuel. The problem is that the greater number of vehicle do more damage which increases costs. Even technology factors in as cars and trucks have more power while tires have more traction–putting more stress on the road surfaces. All you have to do it look in some cities at how the crosswalk stripes and other road markings are warped out of square by the braking and acceleration of countless vehicles every single day. And of course, repair costs continue to rise.

      So the failure doesn’t reside with any one office or even any one group of offices–it resides with everybody’s failure to see the Big Picture because of their microscopic viewpoints.

      • 0 avatar
        trackratmk1

        Agreed. My “all else being equal” statement alluded to your point about volume increases on the roadways… I know it’s not equal, but I didn’t have the data on hand. The principle is the same though. There is no guarantee that we will always buy an ever increasing amount of vehicles as a society, and so far that fact alone hasn’t balanced the revenues needed for repairs.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Not to get under your fur here, Vulpine but the number of cars are increasing faster than our population. The statistics are baring out a reality where we have more registered cars but only slightly more registered drivers so the number of miles being driven annually are dramatically different which is why the fuel tax is falling short.

        As an aside, the fuel tax has been getting cheaper due to inflation every year so it should have been raised a long time ago to coincide with inflation eating away at its own value. A rise of 20 cents (just to keep it simple) would be on an average flux be roughly 5-6% which if we look back 21 years since it was last changed that is nearly 50% less than it was when instituted. So basically doubling it would bring it back in line with 1993 value (and representing nearly 20% of a total purchase price). So a 20 cent increase would mean very little in practical terms for society. We could probably afford to double or triple it and still make do before we start seeing a serious negative impact on our economic system.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Actually, you’re emphasizing my points, Xeranar. More cars are on the road but those cars now get from 50% to 100% better gas mileage than they did even 30 years ago. So the actual usage of fuel has risen by a fair amount, but not by the same proportion of registrations or miles driven.

          You are also quite correct that the gas tax has NOT risen proportionate to the cost of repairs. Apparently the thinking was that with more cars on the road they would use more fuel and bring in a proportionately higher total–while completely ignoring that fuel economy on the cars and trucks has been going up, keeping that total relatively flat. Of course, were that gas tax increased as it needs, fuel prices again press or even exceed that $4/gallon mark which triggers a sell-off of less fuel efficient vehicles (think large SUVs and pickup trucks) and plunging sales of new models of those same larger vehicles.

          You know, that would be a good way to rid the roads of what I call RoadWhales™.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I’ve been an advocate of replacing the silly CAFE system with an increasing gas tax, set to increase slowly at first but faster in later years and a cap at, say, five to ten years. This would allow people stuck with low-mpg cars time to plan for buying more efficient cars, as the big bite happens further down the road. It’s a market-oriented idea, allowing people to buy what they want while increasing fuel efficiency dramatically over time.

        Living in NYC as I do, I *hate* the idea of tolling interstates. In the past few years tolls on the Port Authority bridges have almost doubled. And on MTA bridges, it’s just as bad. It now costs $13 to cross the GWB. Where has this money gone? In the case of the Port Authority, much of it has gone to fund the World Trade Center, a monument to bad thinking. Any time there’s a need to grab some money, just raise the tolls, it’s far too easy.

        The infrastructure cost of adding and operating toll-collection will be a permanent cost that will benefit only those in the toll-collection infrastructure business. We’ll pay more and get less.

        Gas taxes have to rise, there is no real alternative.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Since more and more vehicles use no gas, and gas engines are becoming more efficient, perhaps it’s time to replace the gas tax with a national vehicle tax. That way everyone pays their fair share of road maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      That vehicle tax better be based on vehicle weight. It’s not the Priuses, Smart Cars and TDIs that are hammering our roads into cart tracks, it’s the proliferation of “light duty” trucks and the big rigs.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        … which of course will drive more Big Rigs onto the rails, taking away more jobs and putting more people on the unemployed lists. See how that goes? While I don’t disagree with your reasoning, it’s too short-sighted in itself. Let’s look for a more functional answer that at least tries to benefit everybody equally.

        • 0 avatar
          gtrslngr

          Vulpine – To use up my oft repeated favorite axiom ;

          ” There Is No Free Lunch ”

          Nor are there ever any simple solutions to much of anything when it comes to Real Life in the Real World we live in . Here’s another more complex axiom to consider ;

          ” For every potential solution there are at least two problems that will arise from said solution : The trick is being discerning enough to decide whether the two new problems out weigh the potential solution or whether the two new problems are a worthwhile compromise overall in light of the gains brought about by the potential solution ” [ Jaque Ellul ; \" The Technological Bluff \"]

          Apologies for getting a bit heavy there but ……

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          Rail is where a vast majority of the freight belongs anyway. Far lower cost and C02 output per mile, far easier on the environment, and dramatically lessening the wear and tear on our roadways.

          • 0 avatar
            gtrslngr

            Freight and a fair amount of passenger transportation as well IMO would go an awful long way to diminishing our dependence on the automobile – pollution – wear & tear on the roadways – overall impact on the environment etc

            But errr … guess what ? The powers that be [ Big Oil and the Auto/Truck makers ] will never let that happen . Both along with tire manufactures being directly responsible for our current lack of rail for all purposes .. having succinctly destroyed the majority of it as well as mass transit nationwide in order to further their own greed/gains/profit

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            The “GM conspired to kill mass transit with Standard Oil and the tire companies” meme was thoroughly discredited in last week’s discussion. It’s time to move on…

            Freight rail is doing quite well in this country, and has been for several years now.

            The United States moves over three times as much freight per capita as the European nation that is the heaviest user of freight rail – Sweden. European nations send a higher percentage of freight by road than the United States does.

            Meanwhile, cars account for 80 percent of the distance traveled in 11 western European countries, and only gets below 80 percent in three nations – Austria, Denmark and Ireland. And those figures are with heavy mass transit subsidies, very high gasoline prices and much denser population. Europeans apparently like cars, too.

            We have a very good rail system in this country. Given our lack of population density, however, we use it more to move freight, as opposed to people.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          To be fair, Vulpine, OTR Truckers are really ineffective for our economy. Short-range truckers would still be viable and needed. Our economy can absorb that class but it would also need to seriously build a great deal more railways to accommodate that massive shift in economics.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            OTR truckers still make a fair proportion of those cross-country trips, but rail is seriously cutting into their numbers. However, as you say we would still need regional truckers to carry those loads the “final mile” where customers don’t have direct rail access.

            What you may not be aware of is the fact that the Class I railroads are making significant improvements on their mainlines–though the cost is prohibitive to perform all that rework in short order. Back when trucks and cars took much of their business away, the railroads had to cut back drastically–selling off little-used spurs and sometimes flat-out abandoning them. You wouldn’t believe the number of ‘mom and pop’ shorelines we now enjoy across the country serving those limited customers that want rail service but don’t offer enough revenue to maintain Class I operations.

            Still, the Class Is are laying new track, switching to concrete ties from the old-style wooden ones and even going welded rail with one- to two-mile unbroken rail between joints which offers smoother and more reliable carriage with lower risk of derailment. Many lines that once were double- or even triple-tracked got cut back to single track and are now getting rebuilt again to double-track mains. With the twin-stacked containers, tunnels have to be cut higher or even made open-air to allow those higher loads through mountain country in particular. Bridges over the tracks have to be raised and tunnels under rivers and bays may need to be completely re-dug. Some railroad bridges in regular use may be as much as 100 years old and one bridge in particular (in Pennsylvania) is over 150 years old. It costs money to repair/replace/rebuild infrastructure that’s been allowed to slide.

            Which comes right back to our highways; rather than getting the regular maintenance that they needed and rather than building for longevity in the first place, too many administrations–Federal or State or both–have chosen the cheap, quick fix that is guaranteed to fail sooner than later–hopefully during their opposing party’s tenure.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        it’s just the big rigs.
        Mommy in her 4ooo lb Q7 is a pittance compared to the douchebag in the three axle dump with a full load of asphalt, the tires jacked to 150 psi and the tag axle hanging in the air while he boogies over ravelled bridge joints at 80 mph. That guy literally does 10,000 times the damage as anyone else. I’ve tracked rebound acceleration of bridge joints at over 2g’s.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        As FractureCritical noted, it’s the “big rigs” damaging the roads, not soccer mom in her Tahoe. An SUV or pickup isn’t causing much more damage to the road than a Prius. The relationship between the damage a vehicle does to a road, and its weight, is not linear. It can’t be, given that most roads have to accommodate 80,000 pound tractor trailers.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      The fuel tax is a very good system. Any proposed changes lose in efficiency more than is gained in fairness. The big rigs pay on a different system already, and half the weight is not half the road wear. It’s much more complicated. Wear correlates well with fuel burn and efficiency correlates well with pollution which isn’t currently part of the tax but is a reasonable justification for a break for high MPG.

      Yes, alternate fuel vehicles are getting over, but I propose we task the states with figuring that out rather than letting the Feds muck it up in one big stroke.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    And since increasing the gas tax is impossible, more tolls on existing interstates are proposed to help states fund highway maintenance. I suppose tolls at least capture funds from alt fuel vehicles, but at the expense of either drive time or privacy.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      And don’t forget that now they can track your average speed and movements. Big Brother, anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Can I ask, what is the obsession with the fistfuls of Teslas and other plugins? Do you think they’re out there in such numbers as to actually make a dent in the current make up of our fleet? It is at best a complete red herring in this discussion still.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        While the numbers aren’t huge, we know of 20,000 Teslas, something over 80,000 Volts, I don’t know how many Leafs or that BMW i-something-or-other. Sure, we see 15M to 16M cars sold every year, so a mere 100,000 or so is a mere couple of percent at most. On the other hand, sales of each of those models has been rising every year with Tesla alone selling 3x as many cars this past year compared to the year before. Tesla also has a new model hitting the road this year, another in about 2 years and yet another about 3 years after that. The numbers may be small now, but they won’t STAY small. And as numbers of Battery Electric Vehicles rise, that’s just that many more gallons of gasoline not purchased each year. The gas tax is headed for obsolescence.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          I agree it’s heading there but not for atleast a decade or two. 254M total registered vehicles and right now the current impact is somewhere in the .00003% right now. Once it reaches 10% of the total registered vehicles I could see a change. If anything we may introduce a registration tax on electric vehicles based on annual odometer mileage which would add a layer of bureaucracy but the EV shift is occurring slowly.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @Xenrar:

        The people who are obsessed with taxing electric cars clearly believe they’re the future. Either that or they hate to see someone else pay lower taxes. Probably both, in most cases.

        No matter what their motivation is, asking for tax fairness (the actual principle, notthe misnamed lobbying groups/proposals) is a fair question.

        I expect EVs to become the default cost effective second-car long before I retire.

  • avatar
    OneidaSteve

    Similar tax gaps exist in tobacco sales – more government programs to help people stop smoking = less money in tobacco sales tax to fund health programs.

    Yes, we will need new consumption fees for motorists, and as much as i dont like tolls, they are perfectly effective (and with EZ Pass) not too painful.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    This issue will not go away. Our kick the can down the road Government is infuriating. We can do the math on the shortfalls by using the federally mandated CAFE numbers. As fuel economy increases, gas tax collection decreases. Prius, Volt, Leaf, Tesla ETAL do the same damage to the roads as a Camry, Malibu, Versa, or Mercedes. The transportation infrastructure in the US is an embarrassment and the toll roads drive me nuts. A three day business trip to Chicago yields $20 or better in tolls ussually half to a third of the gas expense for those three days. I use national and generally opt for the thirstiest rig they have….my choice.

    Either way, an increase of 10 cents per gallon would be far more economical. Not all Taxes are bad, the general value of the gas tax is quite high. Our rotten roads are still better than what you find in Somalia, which has very low gas tax.

    Maybe the assumption is, since we all have SUV/CUV we can handle the rougher terrain.

    Where’s Howard Stern when you need him? Years ago he ran, for a short time, for governor of NY with the political strategy of fixing the roads In NY state. If memory serves he dropped out when it came time to divulge his tax returns. Either way we need someone, politically, who is looking for a temp job and not a career to fix our many problems.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Fixing our problems would be a career in itself–even ignoring whatever new problems that alone could create.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        I agree with you. I guess my point was more to the macro issue of the self serving nature of our elected officials. Used to be get a GM franchise and you were a millionaire shortly, now it’s get elected to congress and you are worth millions instantly. Naively assuming the individual was not already extremely wealthy prior to election…

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      “Not all Taxes are bad, the general value of the gas tax is quite high.”

      Unfortunately todays version of the GOP (which has nothing in common with the GOP of the Ike era) has brainwashed a large portion of the population into disagreeing with logic.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Our wonderful Pennsylvania legislature increased the prices of every kind of vehicle-related fee you can think of by quite a large amount recently in the name of improving our roads and bridges.

    I’ll believe it when I see crews out there actually fixing the damned roads!

  • avatar
    carguy

    It is estimated that we are $2 trillion behind in our transportation infrastructure. So $300B is a start, but not enough if we are to catch up in fixing our crumbling infrastructure anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      I could spend $300B in any single non-flyover state just to get rid of the red flags in the bridge inspection reports, so multiply by about 20.

    • 0 avatar
      TOTitan

      If we had not wasted trillions in Iraq and Afganistan there would be more than enough for infrastructure.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I agree with you but I know said monies would have just been pissed away in another worthless manner.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          Like not paying for debt service on all that borrowed money to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan….Oh snap!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Agreed but I think at least part of the reasoning behind them was to get the Feds back in the red after the whole “surplus” thing. If not war than something else.

      • 0 avatar
        mypoint02

        How about that $812 billion that was supposed to be used for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects, but was mostly just a huge transfer payment to state and local governments to make payroll. A whole lotta good that did…

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Increase federal gasoline tax by 5 cents per gallon.
    Remove union only work rules for highway and bridge contracts.
    Funding to roads and bridges.
    5 percent to other transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      I’ll do you one better: Only raise the gas tax by 3 cents, but do it every 6 months for the next 5 years. After that, lock in the tax as an indexed percentage of the national average priec of regular gas. If 48.5 cents works out to be 12% of the cost a gallon of gas, then forever more, tax gas at 12% and leave it alone. no one will ever friggin notice except that traffic will improve and potholes will go away.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Doubtful unless your tax bill is accompanied by a massive overhaul of US and State DOTs including layoffs and de-unionization. Guaranteeing 12% for life simply enables more bad behavior and waste.

        Here’s a thought, pick twelve random citizens with valid driver’s licenses and high school diplomas and let them write the bill. Clearly, such action cannot be properly performed by Congress.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’m an anti-tax increase guy, but if someone can show me the numbers on how gas tax revenue is spent at the federal and state level, account for the money and show it’s spent on road repair now, and show the delta between what is needed and what is collected today, then I’d be convinced to change my tune.

    Based on the recent stories of government ineptitude, though, I don’t think this basic, pragmatic request for data will be met with facts that support the case for a gas tax increase.

    In other words, show me accountability.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      The best I can answer you with is the fact that there are really two gasoline taxes in effect, a Federal tax and a State tax which typically add up to somewhere around 20¢ per gallon. These funds are INTENDED strictly for use on state and federal transportation infrastructure, but as has been pointed out, it’s not difficult to see where these funds have been tapped for other purposes for a long time. Even the town in which I live had to fight and lobby for over a decade to get a critical bridge over a commonly-flooding tidal creek replaced–upon which the replacement carries the name of the legislator that finally succeeded in getting it funded.

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      As an additional bit, some amount of the money goes to transit infrastructure, and we’re often doing buildouts and maintenance on those systems all the time.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      If you need accountability, you won’t be convinced.

      In 2013, ~50% of the FHWA budget was spent on maintenance or payments to the Transportation Trust Fund. The other 50% was spent on studies to examine safety equipment, environmental sustainability, economic impact, quality of life, etc. Gasoline excise tax receipts are around $25B, at least $20B short of funding the FHWA.

      Fortunately, the 2015 budget requests and beyond stipulate 20% increase in maintenance funds and ~$35B in payments to the Transportation Trust Fund, which is not adequately funded by gasoline excise. Unfortunately, the payments to the transportation trust fund, include about $10B for mass transit, which probably represents a stealth bailout of Amtrak and state rail systems.

      Gasoline excise tax would probably have to be 300% higher to increase funds and offset rising fuel efficiency. Sharp increase in federal excise tax would probably increase budgetary shortfall in the states.

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    It sure would be nice to see if gas tax money is actually used for road repair….or is shifted to the general funds instead ????

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      That has always been a problem with funds entrusted to the government. Politicians will spend that money on anything other than what it was intended for. Social Security is but one example. Lockbox anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      asapuntz

      iirc, the gas tax has been insufficient for so long that money actually flows from the general fund into roads, as a general rule.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Haven’t had time to think it through, but I am curious of others’ thoughts here: Is the Interstate System a big part of the problem? It costs so much to maintain our infrastructure because there’s just so damn much of it? We made it easy to live 60 miles from where we work and to commute every day. We made it easy to spread out and that made it necessary to put freight on trucks instead of rail, etc,etc…or is that system what underlied our tremendous growth?

    An irrelevant question, at this point, I am just curious.

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      You may find figure 6-5 most helpful.

      http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/pubs/hf/pl11028/chapter6.cfm

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Let me forward just a tiny bit of trivia to you in response. There is one state in this great Union that alone bears over 1,000,000 miles of paved federal, state and county roads. The Federal taxes help pay for maintenance on the Interstate and Federal highways while state and county taxes pay for state and county roads. The difference in how the counties allocate those funds is visibly and tactilly obvious as some roads ride smooth as silk and others ride like driving on railroad ties (without the tracks). Some counties cut just the edge of the road (about 18-24″ of the shoulder portion) while others go so far as to grind the macadam (asphalt) down to the sub-bed, re-melt it, mix it with fresh asphalt and re-lay the entire road. I can tell you now the cheap fixes typically only last about 2 years in that state while the extensive–albeit more expensive–fixes last 5-10 years or longer.

      So is the Interstate system the problem? Maybe. Before the Interstate system, people still lived from 20-50 miles away from their workplaces, but rode commuter trains and trolleys rather than drove. Interestingly, that trend is already reversing where commuter rail already exists and where commuter rail is newly installed. Why? Because at $5/day or so, it’s still cheaper to ride the train than to drive that 20+ miles each way in a car that even WITH good gas mileage ends up burning more than necessary due to congestion.

      Solution? Get people off the roads as much as possible and then for those remaining give them the best possible roads. A win-win situation because short-term savings means long-term expenses.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Rail is so much more efficient than transcontinental road freight, it’s a bit comical. If we invested in rail, long-haul trucking would disappear. Major rail lines and terminals would probably be built outside of major metropolises for economic reasons, and trucking companies would haul locally or regionally.

      However, trains have their own protectionist policy. Buffet is making nice returns by using his newly purchased train companies to haul Bakken oil to the East Coast. I don’t consider Buffet to be a nefarious political figure, but there is little doubt that the rail industry has been protected by referendums on pipeline construction.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Rail freight is doing quite well in this country. But the idea that it will displace trucks is false. If anything, its continued increase will spur more demand for trucks to haul containers after they are unloaded from the train.

        Take a look at the next freight train you see (plenty travel through Pennsylvania). The overwhelming majority of railroad cars are flatbeds with tractor trailer containers loaded on to them. The containers are unloaded at the stop and then coupled to trucks for delivery to their final destination.

        • 0 avatar
          Hillman

          I would say that your point about rail using flatbeds with a tractor trailer container helps prove that rail is displacing trucks. The trucks that used to haul long distance are being replaced by rail. The trucks will move to a more local model that will take the goods from the rail yards to the local distribution warehouse. Combine that with the rail getting the goods from shipping ports and you have a greatly reduced trucking network. Of course I would love to hear from someone in the shipping industry.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            A more “local” use of trucks still involves driving the container to the customer, which is often located 50-100 miles away from the rail terminal or warehouse.

            Harrisburg is a major railroad center. The freight portion of the railroad business is doing quite well, but there are still a TON of trucks on the road, delivering goods along the East Coast or to the interior via I-81, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-83.

            No one would be more relieved than me if railroads displaced trucks on highways, but that simply has not been happening around here. As freight rail has boomed, so has the number of trucks.

  • avatar
    TW5

    NPS has a $12B maintenance backlog. Hopefully someone will cut them into the mix. Roads and parks are some of the few programs that everyone uses throughout their lives.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do believe if the money used to subsidise vehicle manufacturers and the UAW was used to develop transport infrastructure and not business in the US (and other countries) the country would gain more benefit economically.

    The construction of better roads/transport serves everyone, not just the socialist UAW and hand picked industries.

    Increasing the cost of fuel would also help in the reduction in the use of gasoline/diesel in surface transport. This would also benefit the US.

  • avatar
    Hillman

    I have always said if someone can tell me what costs the same as it did in 1993 then I will agree that the tax does not need to be increased. Funny how people can never answer that question with an example proving me wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      cronus

      Things that cost less now then in 1993? Computers, computer software, phone service, natural gas, internet service, cell phones, and airline tickets. That’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are many others. Highway construction by the way costs about the same now as it did 10 years ago. See figure 6-7 here, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/pubs/hf/pl11028/chapter6.cfm (Kinosh posted the link above)


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