By on April 14, 2016

Map from the January 1971 U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Interstate System Route Log & Finder List. "The routes and route numbers shown are those designated as of October 1, 1970."

Somewhere between storming the beaches at Normandy and marching into Berlin, General Dwight D. Eisenhower became enamored with the German Autobahn system of superhighways, and so resolved to create a similar system in the United States — or so goes the legend.

After the war, America began to build out from its crowded urban cores, placing new homes and businesses where before there was farmland and wilderness. At first, these new developments were reachable only by hastily expanded surface streets, and longer distance trips used the U.S. Highway system of two-lane roads first designed in the 1920s.

For a forward thinking superpower, this was not enough. Enter the Interstate Highway System — and the Highway Trust Fund that literally paid to pave its way.

The year is 1956. Then-President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 that created the Interstate and Defense Highway System of modern untolled, limited-access highways. The new law also fundamentally changed the way federal highways were funded. Instead of subjecting highway funding to the annual whims of Congress, highways would now be financed out of a dedicated fund with a defined revenue stream.

The newly created Highway Trust Fund (the Fund) levied a $0.03 per gallon tax (equal to $0.26 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator) on motor fuels to fund federally sponsored highway construction and maintenance, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The tax increased to $0.04 ($0.32) per gallon in 1961 and increased again in 1982 when then-President Ronald Reagan signed an increase to $0.09 ($0.22) per gallon into law. The tax increased again in 1986 to $0.10 ($0.22) and most recently to $0.184 ($0.30) per gallon in 1993. the Fund also taxes Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel sold for on-road use at $0.244 per gallon.

While taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel make up 86.5 percent of the Fund’s revenue, according to the website Statista.com, taxes on heavy trucks and trailers provide 9.6 percent of revenue, taxes on buses and other heavy vehicles contribute 2.5 percent, and taxes on heavy-truck tires tack on the final 1.3 percent of revenue for the Fund.

Since its creation in 1956, the Highway Trust Fund’s spending has diversified. The same 1982 law President Reagan signed into law raising the fuel tax to $0.09 per gallon also created the Mass Transit sub-account to fund public transportation projects, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Under that law, $0.08 per gallon went to highway projects, while $0.01 per gallon went to the new Mass Transit sub-account. Later, the 1986 gas tax increase signed into law by George H.W. Bush raised the tax to $0.10 per gallon and directed the $0.01 increase to fund cleanup of leaking underground storage tanks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The 1993 increase was originally part of a deficit reduction package, but was redirected to the Fund by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 signed by President Bill Clinton.

In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, the Fund received $40 billion from dedicated taxes on fuel, tires, and other sources. The Fund also received $8 billion from the U.S. Government’s general fund. It spent $43 billion on highway projects, and $9 billion on mass transit projects, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The general fund infusion isn’t technically from the general fund, which receives its bankroll mostly through income taxes, and pays for things like the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and the National Parks Service. Instead, the transfer is siphoned from other monies that would ordinarily be paid into the general fund. Since money is fungible, it’s as good as a general fund transfer.

Since 2008, general fund transfers to the Fund became common as emergency stopgap bills sought to temporarily prop up the Fund without increasing fuel and other transportation taxes. Currently, the long-term Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) guarantees a total of $70 billion in transfers from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund thru 2020, according to StreetsBlog.org. The transfers will come from: $53.3 billion from the Federal Reserve’s surplus, $6.9 billion from dividends that would have been paid to commercial banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System, $5.2 billion in customs fees, $6.2 billion from selling off a fraction of the strategic petroleum reserve, and $2.4 billion from privatizing certain Internal Revenue Service functions, according to Forbes.

Budgetary shenanigans aside, criticisms of the Fund come from many points across the political spectrum. Conservatives complain about spending for public transit projects, arguing that public transit should be funded some other way, or exclusively by state and local governments. Disciples of Ronald Reagan also point to hybrids and EVs that pay little or no taxes into the fund due to their failure to burn much gasoline. Liberals complain that fuel taxes are somewhat regressive, hitting lower-income motorists harder than 1%-er drivers, and that current laws don’t allow much flexibility for state and local governments to use money marked for highway use for alternatives like expanded commuter train service.

Neither party in Congress is in much hurry to raise fuel taxes for myriad reasons. Some transportation commenters say fuel taxes should increase because the current $0.184 levy has lost much of its value to inflation since it was last raised. Others want to pursue entirely different funding models, such as tolls and annual per-mile charges like the pilot program Oregon implemented in 2012.

Few believe the current system of highway and surface transportation funding is sustainable over the long-term, but workable alternatives have gained little political support.

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166 Comments on “Highway Trust Fund: What It Was, and What It Is Now...”


  • avatar
    thelaine

    “Disciples of Ronald Reagan?” They want an EV tax? What?

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Exactly.

      Disciples of Ronald Reagan would want reform or elimination of the Davis-Bacon Act, which greatly inflates the cost of government funded infrastructure.

      Davis-Bacon is another legacy of the pre-New Deal and New Deal era and many historians have noted its racist roots.

      “In 1979, the U.S. Congress General Accounting Office (GAO) – (which was renamed the Government Accountability Office in 2004) published a report titled, “The Davis-Bacon Act Should Be Repealed”.”

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Ronald Reagan once quipped that “government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

      There, in a nutshell, you have a short history of mass transit in America. CEI’s Marc Scribner explains,

      Following decades of excessive local government fare regulation that led to a terminal decline in the private mass transit industry, government began taking over the responsibilities performed by now-bankrupt private mass transit companies following the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964.

      Over the span of a decade, the mostly-private mass transit industry was replaced by government transit monopolies.

      As a result, for the last several decades, government at all levels has spent trillions on mass transit, subsidizing fares, expanding lines, and building vast new rail systems. Today, transit consumes more than 25 percent of all surface transportation funds (which mostly come from non-transit users through gas taxes).

      What was the result of this tidal wave of taxpayer cash?

      Despite receiving more than one-fourth of the funding, mass transit still represents less than 2 percent of trips taken nationwide. Even when one looks only at commuting, where trains and buses do best, mass transit’s national mode share is less than 5 percent — down from more than 6 percent in 1980.

      That’s right: after receiving a massive and disproportionate share of taxpayer funding, totaling trillions of dollars, transit’s share of commutes declined.

      But government transit monopolies keep lobbying for more and more funding. They claim the real problem is that public transit systems haven’t been expanded enough to draw more people into using them. Scribner calls this the Field of Dreams theory: “If you build it, they will come.”

      The problem with this theory is that it’s bogus. Research from Steven Polzin shows that the capacity of transit networks, including buses, streetcars, and trains, has nearly tripled since 1970, while absolute ridership has grown by just a fraction of that. Transit trips per capita have been dead flat since the 1970s.

      Polzin writes, “Supply has grown far more rapidly than demand for the past several decades. This is a report card on productivity that mom and dad would hardly be proud of.”

      Meaning: we built it; they didn’t come.

      Scribner concludes,

      The trillions spent on mass transit have given governments many more empty buses and trains, but very little in terms of additional ridership. …

      Mass transit can serve a very important, albeit narrow, purpose for people in limited settings. There is a reason that 40 percent of all US mass transit trips take place in the New York City metro area.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        For folks who don’t know, the CEI is a libertarian “think tank” primarily known as a denier of climate change.

        Funded by the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, Texaco and PhiipMorris, CEI is essentially a lobbying front for fossil fuels and tobacco.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          You gotta love right wingers. When reality doesn’t match their beliefs (which is often), they respond by denying the reality.

          • 0 avatar
            Macca

            Seriously, it’s settled science (TM) that leftists have their ideology solidly rooted in fact.

            *Trigger warning* for any special snowflakes…

            I mean, the left’s cultish devotion to their pieties such as the non-existent gender pay discrimination, Chicken Little climate scare mongering from 1970s global cooling & next ice age, then warming, then climate change (remember, the Arctic will be ice free by 2015), the non-existent campus rape epidemic, the Population Bomb that wasn’t, thinking gun control reduces crime, the lack of an explanation for terrorism (well, other than because crusades), a $15 minimum wage will help the working poor, somehow Soros isn’t an evil mastermind but KOCH BROTHERS!!!, vaccines are bad, GMO foods are evil, and so on.

            But you’re right, conservatives r so dumb.

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            You must be looking at your reflection.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            You gotta love leftists, they ignore facts if they don’t like the speaker. It is all schoolyard, all the time. Children who never grew up.

          • 0 avatar
            PeterTx52

            you owe me a new keyboard. left wingers deny reality on a daily basis. for example $15/hr minimum wage will help people. really? it locks out people from jobs.
            obamacare – if you like your insurance you can keep it.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            Take a good look in the mirror

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Facts

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          I don’t know anyone that denies “climate change”.

          But science demands that theories must pass muster. That’s were the Left’s politicized science fails. And that’s why they get so hysterical when people point that out.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Thornmark,
            The geniuses at CEI deny climate change. So do most Republican candidates for president.

            Do you think this denial is because they are too stupid to understand climate science (like SHORTBUSSERIESREVEIW) or do you think it is because they are trying to shirk responsibility for reducing the US’ impact on the environment?

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            But you are not talking science. The models the Left cites have not been predictive. Even when the political scientists go back and change climate records.

            Eisenhower warned about government funded research – he said it could not be trusted because government money flows to those who produce the results government wants, corrupting science.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Thornmark

            No “100% predictive model,” so let’s do nothing, correct?

            By that logic…there’s also no “100% predictive model” that will “prove” that if you smoke, you’ll get lung cancer. People smoke for decades and don’t get it. It’s entirely possible to smoke every day until you die in a car wreck at age 101, free of lung cancer. But what kind of fool ignores his doctor’s advice to stop smoking?

            Climate science, like lots of other types of science that deal with complex systems, will never be “100% accurate.” But we’d be incredibly foolish not to heed the “imperfect” warnings.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            There’s a reason it’s called “predictive modeling” and not “future certaining.”

            As said yesterday in a meeting I was in, “The only thing we know for sure is that our modeling and assumptions will be wrong.”

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            True, Corey, no one knows with 100% certainty what our pollution causes climate-wise. But I’m pretty convinced by the highly educated guesses.

            Even if we’re wrong with those guesses, though, it’s time we move past fossil fuels. Setting climate concerns aside, we know the other toxic side effects of them, and those will only get worse as countries like China and India become more developed.

            Besides, whoever invents a truly valid alt energy source (FUSION!!!) will make so much money that he could hire Bill Gates to do his laundry.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Fusion power and hydrogen cars, which may or may not be called Fusion as well.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            What ever happened to “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” anyway. It was going to cause mass human extinction, remember? We needed to cut hydrocarbon consumption radically and immediately!

            In the meantime, people kept burning fossil fuels like craxy, because they don’t want to be poor and cold.

            Oh, right, it became “climate change,” aka “weather.” Yawn. Sorry chicken leftists. Wrong again. Mild warming and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, to the extent it has occurred, has been beneficial to plant and human life.

            World ending catastrophe? Not so much.

            You are also wrong about public mass transit, leftist. Read the other side, blind ideologue. Do it just with your brain. Exclude your childlike emotions. You may learn something.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Ignoring the facts to attack the source is a sure sign of defeat. You got nothin.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It’s hilarious how the right-wing clowns who whine about the supposed “liberal media” get all prickly when they are derided for relying upon their own lousy propaganda that they dare to think of as “sources.”

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            You “dare to rhink of as sources.” It IS daring to defy leftists, since they are all little facists at heart. They don’t want anyone venturing beyond the officially approved reading list and there will be consequences for anyone who “dares.”

        • 0 avatar
          PeterTx52

          must be following Alinsky’s Rule 5
          ridiculing your opponent is so much easier then discussing the points.

          I love the open-mind attitude of those on the left to new ideas or opinions that are contrary to their beliefs.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Argument ad hominem, professor.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Ignore the facts, attack the speaker, and change the subject. Right out of the leftist playbook. That is why you eventually destroy everything you touch.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        Reagan vetoed the “Big Dig” The Dem Congress overrode the veto and the Dig will eventually cost something like 8-10x the projected cost.

        The project leaks because it was built through landfill in parts and has killed people when sections collapsed. The leaks are saltwater which is shorting out the lighting and corroding electrics.

        Appropriately, a portion is named after the old porkster Tip O’Neill himself.

        “The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US, and was plagued by escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests,[2][3] and one death.[4] The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998[5] at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006).[6] However, the project was completed only in December 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%)[6] as of 2006.[7] The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it will not be paid off until 2038.[8] As a result of a death, leaks, and other design flaws, the consortium that oversaw the project agreed to pay $407 million in restitution, and several smaller companies agreed to pay a combined sum of approximately $51 million”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dig

        But of course, Jerry Brown’s high-speed train fiasco will make that look good in comparison. They just fire the engineers when they produce facts that undermine the political project.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Summary: There was once a large infrastructure project that went over budget, so all infrastructure projects are bad.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            All infrastructure projects are bad. It’s axiomatic.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            All infrastructure projects are bad. OK

            – Ever use a road or anything that was transported on a road or in the air?
            – Ever use the internet? phone?
            – Drink tap water?
            – Get treated in a hospital?
            – Get educated in a school? (I’m really asking about this one)

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The street in front of my house has NEVER turned a profit. Never ever!

            It has ALWAYS been subsidized!

            I wonder what those idiots were thinking when they built it in the first place?!?!?!?!

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            You missed my sarcasm, VoGo.

            (This was also a takeoff on a quote from a Stephen King book…ten points to whoever guesses it…)

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            You’re right FreedMike,
            My bad.

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          I drive over 300 miles daily in and out of Boston, and am old enough to remember the abomination that was the central artery. The city would have been crippled without the Big Dig. Logan would not function as an international airport. In spite of its cost, I would like to see an analysis that factors the value of the Greenway, the re-connection of the city to the waterfront, the development of the financial district, and the development of the seaport measured against that cost. Yes the project was woefully underestimated, but when you consider that what it entailed was tunneling beneath an active 6 lane elevated highway through a city of marshland that was filled in with dirt, debris and god knows what else, while keeping that highway functioning, minimizing damage to buildings above, and essentially engineering solutions on the fly, then the final cost is probably not too unreasonable, apart from the normal corruption and waste in such a massive undertaking. Besides, if the central artery was still there, Occupy Boston would have had permanent shelter beneath it.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Let’s see Marc Scribner of CEI get back and forth from to work at his office in Washington DC without the Metro. Not having transit might be more than a little challenging in his city of 6 million people, and pathetically underdeveloped highway system.

        Bon chance, mon ami. Let’s hope his employer has a LIBERAL telecommuting policy.

  • avatar
    DukeGanote

    I’m still astonished that a nation that built a network of the fastest, safest, and most fuel-efficient roads spanning the continent… now can’t maintain them without siphoning funds from elsewhere, and is barraged by “studies” from the IIHS essentially arguing that speed limits should be continually reduced and revenue continually generated by strict enforcement.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      DukeGanote, it’s worse than that re siphoning of funds. New Mexico is $417Million short in just MedicAid to support free Ob*m*care and has to put the boys and girls of NM finest on the roads to “mine” those highways and byways. I imagine other states face similar financial problems.

      If you’re planning to travel to or through NM, don’t. If you have out-of-state plates, your chances of getting some sort of ticket and resultant fine are good.

      Motorists, be warned.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Got it. We can’t have roads OR healthcare, because paying for them would require rich people to have their taxes raised back up to half of its 1950s-60s level, and in today’s America that’s simply unthinkable.

        Nope, there’s simply no conceivable solution to any of these problems. Sorry.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Did anyone read the article? Funds were moved TO the infrastructure fund, NOT FROM.

          We can’t just deny these facts, merely because they run contrary to your political leanings — after all, we aren’t Trump supporters!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            VoGo, yes, I read the article, and much more. The fact remains that juggling funds to/from does not eliminate the shortfalls.

            BTW, I’m NOT a Trump supporter, and frankly, I can’t see any of the remaining five candidates as POTUS.

            But of the five candidates remaining, only John Kasich has actual governing experience. He also has a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Obamacare is an Act of Congress, not a market. You can’t withdraw from an act. UH said they were thinking of withdrawing; I have not seen a report of it, but even if they did, so what? In a vibrant economy, companies enter and exit markets all the time. There is no hidden meaning behind it.

            You are exceptionally slow to learn.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            If the funds were used to maintain the roads, and nothing more, there would be plenty of money. Everything else could be paid for by separate approval and funding. Right now, it is a slush fund, so it is always short of money and growing in obligations.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          tonycd, I don’t have to pay taxes because my income is too low. I don’t even have to file! And that is a huge portion of Americans in the same boat.

          I would be for a flat tax, across the board, so that everyone has skin in the game at, let’s say, 10% times roughly 300million filers, and everyone would have to file an annual income tax return. That would change things to the good.

          The solution to these shortfalls is not the current huge taxcode with its myriad of loopholes.

          The solution is for everyone to have skin in the game and allow them to buy better health insurance of their choice, like the BlueCross/BlueShield health insurance we used to have before it became too expensive and loaded down with coverages we didn’t need.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Great, HDC, but the problem with that means that people without money won’t get coverage.

            That dog won’t hunt in an economy that depends on productivity. In the end, we all lose.

            If people want to buy supplemental insurance, then they have every right to do so. Makes perfect sense. But basic coverage needs to be in place.

            The current system of how we do that is flawed, to put it mildly, but it’s better than the alternative – aformentioned “only those who can pay get it”, which is where we were headed.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            FreedMike, I understand your concern. But in NM, no one can be denied healthcare because “Its the law!”

            That’s why so many illegal aliens flock to NM because…….. Es La Ley!”.

            It was this way before Ob*m*care, and continued to be that way after Ob*m*care became the law.

            American citizens without money will be slapped on MedicAid. It was that way in the past and continues to be that way today. That’s what happens in NM and several other states.

            Ob*m*care is a scam, and as Dr. Jonathan Gruber put it, “Americans are stupid” or words to that effect, to accept it.

            The people who worked and paid into Medicare all their working lives are the ones who paid to subsidize Ob*macare to the tune of $70B slashed from Medicare funding.

            No free lunch. Never is. Somebody took it in the shorts. Old people who paid for theirs.

            The other losses incurred by Ob*m*care will be made good by those still working and paying taxes.

            The fact that United Healthcare, America’s largest provider, is withdrawing from Ob*m*care due to insurmountable losses, should tell us all that Ob*m*care is bad for the vast majority of Americans.

            And there will be more withdrawals due to losses. Smart young people don’t enroll but pay the penalty instead.

            That said, this is what the majority of voters wanted. This is what they voted for. So America always gets exactly what it deserves. Because we vote for it.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Sigh. United Healthcare isn’t a provider. A provider is a hospital chain or doctors group or other provider of medical services. United Healthcare is an insurer.

            United hasn’t withdrawn from the individual insurance market (what you meant when you said Obamacare – one is an act, the other a market). They threaten to exit, because they claim they are losing money in it.

            If carriers aren’t profitable, that means that consumers are benefiting from low premiums relative to what is paid on their behalf. That would be a good outcome for consumers, contrary to all your whining.

            19 million people are now insured, who weren’t 7 years ago, a colossal achievement. Perhaps if your healthcare insurance wasn’t covered for you by the Federal government, you might appreciate that.

            Otherwise, it requires empathy, something you have often admitted to lacking.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            So UH is not withdrawing from Ob*m*care? All those news leads on Yahoo, MSN, AOL, UPI and AP must be wrong.

            ” Perhaps if your healthcare insurance wasn’t covered for you by the Federal government, you might appreciate that. ”

            FYI, we were insured by BlueCross/BlueShield of NM for almost 30 years with TriCare as secondary, and VAHCS as tertiary for me.

            We dropped BC/BS when they raised group-rate monthly premiums for the business from ~$4800/month to ~$6100/month after Ob*m*care became law.

          • 0 avatar
            DataAndMoney

            Data and Money people….UH pulling out of insurance exchanges in order to focus their resources elsewhere does not take anything away from ObamaCare. Don’t be distracted – this is not, nor will it ever be about insurance. Its all about data….and money. Obamacare aims to collect DATA via the implementation of Meaningful Use requirements in order to force healthcare decisions away from the discretion of your provider and into the hands of those paying the bill – your insurance carrier, who will benefit financially. Those who control the data, control the money ultimately. How do you gain control of that data? The award of a multi billion dollar DoD contract covering more beneficiaries (more data) than anyone else would be a huge start, don’t you think? Maybe UH sees that as a more profitable option than profit-less commercial products?

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          It does seem that creating and enriching billionaires, and building an incredibly inappropriate military arsenal are the only two things that really matter to the US (Right wing politicians *cough*) government.

          We can’t have infrastructure because all taxes are inherently evil too.

          If I could, I would pay my share for roads worthy of a First World nation (The USA is still First World , right guys? hello?). $1/gallon gas and diesel, and some sort of road use fee for EV’s, and some sort of relief mechanism to temporarily lower the tax in the event of a petroleum market spike.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Somehow efficiency has been lost when it comes to these big infrastructure project, thus running up the costs. For example, by my own experience I know that there were no interstates in my area of the country in 1958 (Memphis area). However by 1968, the year I got my driver’s license, I could drive from Memphis to either Nashville or Little Rock on I-40. This was all done in a 10-year window, not just in my area but all over the US.

      Now it takes 5 years to build an interstate route of just a few miles in rural outlying areas around the city. What is different?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        ” What is different?” My guess would be the funding.

        I see more and more money having to be allocated to maintenance and repair of existing interstates with very little left over, if any, for the building of new interstate routes.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “Somewhere between storming the beaches at Normandy and marching into Berlin . . .”? That should be, “Somewhere between storming the beaches at Normandy and halting at the Elbe.”

  • avatar
    360joules

    You can be on any part of the political spectrum & acknowledge that government infrastructure money can get siphoned off easily from it’s original purpose.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Especially when the politicians doing the siphoning are fundamentally opposed to private citizens being able to travel in private vehicles at their own convenience instead of in public transportation at the government’s convenience.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Word

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Nonsense. In fact, if you want to maintain the idea of private citizens being able to travel in private vehicles at their own convenience, you will support public transit TO THE HILT.

        Otherwise, there isn’t enough money in all of Christendom to build enough highways to keep all those privately owned, privately driven vehicles from doing nothing but sitting in traffic all the time.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        This may be the single right-wing trope that’s most often repeated while being supported by the least evidence.

        I suppose you also think Agenda 21 means the UN blue helicopters are coming to forcibly relocate you to a Soviet-style apartment block?

        • 0 avatar
          NoID

          Come on Dal, that’s ridiculous.

          The UN knows that we are expecting blue helicopters. They’re smarter than they look. We can’t be certain what color the choppers will be.

          That’s the scariest part of all.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          You laugh, Dal, in Colorado a few years back the ACTUAL REPUBLICAN PARTY NOMINEE for governor (that’s right, not some school board, city council or state legislature candidate, but STATE GOVERNOR, the guy who can order the National Guard to patrol cities with tanks, spring convicted murderers out of jail with a pen, etc) ran on a platform about how Denver’s bike-sharing program was actually some kind of nefarious UN plot. Apparently being able to rent a bike and ride around downtown Denver brings down the New World Order on us.

          To repeat: this was the ACTUAL GOP nominee, duly elected in the primaries, not some third party fruitcake.

          http://www.denverpost.com/election2010/ci_15673894

          I think this was just a preview of things to come from the Republicans.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That’s entirely plausible but without evidence its a meaningless claim. He also fails to provide, or the reporter failed to include, any details on why the ICLEI or whatever it is connected to is an actual threat.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’d say the evidence is that the man’s claim was ridiculous on its face, as I recall…which might explain why the guy got something like 10% of the vote.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No, I don’t think it’s plausible that bike lanes are a UN conspiracy.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Anybody care to argue that it is 100% impossible to rectify this? I have friends who seem to think smart, efficient, effective government is an absolute impossibility. I would disagree.

      Got messed up in the thread here, this is a response to 360joules entry below about funds not going to their intended purpose.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Part of the resistance is that government infrastructure money may get siphoned off from its intended purpose.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Like from Social Security and Al Gore’s Lock Box.

      • 0 avatar
        360joules

        Good example. The file cabinet in Parkersville, West Virginia that contains the worthless IOUs from the US Treasury to the SSA. It was over 1.7 trillion dollars by 2008.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          By “worthless IOUs” you mean Treasury bonds, usually considered the single safest investment in the world?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            dal, only to those who accept them as such. The American monetary system has never been challenged. Even during the Great Depression all the Treasury did was print more money, like what is being done now.

            The schit would hit the fan if other nations stopped accepting American dollars and it would fall to the level of the Ruble and Yuan Renminbi.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Print money and move away from the Gold Standard.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            So said Nixon.

            He was right.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Inflation alarmists have been saying the currency is an illusion ever since we dropped the gold standard and formed the Bretton Woods system. For some reason, being wrong that entire time hasn’t stopped them. We had one period of too-high but manageable inflation (1979-1981) and other than that inflation has been at or below expectations for over 70 years. I think it’s time to stop shouting THE END IS NEAR.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I haven’t heard anyone shouting, “The End Is Near”, because the answer has always been to print more money.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Dal,
            He doesn’t even comprehend the words he writes, let alone what you wrote.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Your point may be valid, but it directly contradicts the article above, which is that infrastructure funds were actually added by FAST, as gas taxes are inadequate.

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    As a Libertarian, I think that we should impose a total of 50 cents per gallon on all fuels and adjust that to inflation; then we demand that bidding for interstate contracts be open to union AND non-union firms and let the chips fall where they may; my proposal would make it mandatory that all workers be citizens or LEGAL aliens with current papers. Any firm hiring illegal aliens would be permanently banned from working on another government construction contract. Taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel would be equalized. And a mandatory 1% income tax on all citizens regardless of income source, age, or pleading poverty would be added to the trust fund targeted specifically for repairing infrastructure of unsafe bridges. You could not get out of the 1% tax since this area of Government is one of the only areas the Feds have any Constitutional obligation to undertake; as such, every citizen under 18 would be obligated to pay.

    Then, let’s levy a 10% surcharge on all hybrids and electric vehicles and remove all tax credits. Only funds from this tax would be used to support mass transit. No highway funds would be diverted from the first paragraph of this proposal.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      There is no mass transit in the vast majority of America. You really need to get away from behind your keyboard to see the wide open spaces of America outside of your neighborhood.

      It would be intersting if someone did a study on how many people live in cities and how many live in rural areas in America. I’m guessing the vast majority of people in America live in rural areas and away from the cities.

      Hence the needs for decent roads.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        HDC,
        The majority of Americans certainly do not live in rural areas. 30 seconds on Google confirms its less than a quarter of the population.

        But a majority of the Senate comes from areas that are dominated by rural voters. NYC has 8X as many people as Montana, but has to share the same # of Senators with upstate NY.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Okay, I believe you. I was never interested enough in looking up those stats because I, like members of the other 19.3% of the US population, avoid living in urbanized areas.

          Funny thing is, though, soooooo many people seem to be moving to the wide open spaces, at the earliest opportunity they can.

          There must be something undesirable about urban living for those people.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            HDC,
            If you HAD bothered to look up the numbers – which would have taken less time than it took to write down your misconceptions – then you would also have seen that rural populations as a % of the overall population has been declining steadily.

            Why? jobs are in the cities. Along with nice bars and restaurants, museums, parks, theaters, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            What misconceptions? There is more land in the US that is rural than urbanized. In those rural area there is no mass transit. And people moving to those areas don’t expect mass transit. They drive themselves.

            But even when I visit my brothers or other family in urbanized areas, I drive myself, ever so carefully, because what I choose to drive is LARGE.

            I always get a kick out of those pregnant little roller skates scurrying out of my way when they see me coming.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            “I always get a kick out of those pregnant little roller skates scurrying out of my way when they see me coming.”

            Pregnant? Are you paying for their abortions too?

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        2010 US census says 80.7% urban, 19.3% rural. First result on Google.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Thx. I didn’t know. Us rural people are doomed if we have to alter our lifestyle to fit those of the urbanites.

          Better buy the biggest gas-hog we can afford before we’re all forced into rolling sardine cans and autonomous cars.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I dunno, HDC, anytime I travel outside Denver metro, I don’t see much in the way of issues with the rural road system. The rural interstates are in need of repaving (I know Missouri is struggling with how they’re going to rebuild I-70).

        But get back in town, and it’s a whole different story. We spent about a billion dollars a few years back to widen and improve I-25 and it’s still a daily s*it show, particularly through downtown.

        Are the roads in your area that bad?

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          FreedMike, yes, the roads in my area are bad and road construction/repair is a year’round thing everywhere in NM.

          The extra money in my area for road repair, et al, comes from the huge payments that the various foreign governments who train their forces here, make to state, county and municipal governments. It’s kinda like ye olde Status of Forces Agreement, in reverse.

          In that sense, our military installations contribute greatly to the discomfort of the locals due to sonic booms, distant explosions and other disturbances caused by military training.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Are you complaining that the roads are bad and in need of repair, or that the amount of repairs is already too high?

            Both? OK. Makes sense.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            No, nitwit. Read the part where the money for road repair and other things is paid for by foreign governments.

            Other shortfalls because of the shuttling funds to/from has caused major financial shortfalls, like in MedicAid, Food stamps, WIC, welfare, etc.

            So our cops are actively enforcing the laws, to offset the shortages.

            I agree, let the out-of-staters donate their cash in the form of traffic tickets. California has done it successfully for decades.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Still trying to understand.

            There are budget shortfalls, but foreign governments are making up the difference, and you are angry.

            Also, police are enforcing the laws, and you are angry.

            Your state legislature shifts funding to pay for the highest priority needs, and you are angry.

            Maybe you’re just angry?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “There are budget shortfalls, but foreign governments are making up the difference, and you are angry.”

            How so?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            28CL, we have a lot of foreign armed forces, from different countries, training in my area.

            17 of our tenants are German Air Force Officers and they feel like they live in the lap of luxury, a swimming pool for every home, with all the latest and greatest appliances and tech included.

            The foreign governments pay state, county and local governments a sizeable sum of money each year for their people being stationed here, much like America did under the Status of Forces Agreement after WWII and during the Cold War.

            Without all that extra fungible money (which does not go to roads or highway maintenance) the deficits brought on MedicAid and the reduction in mining revenue (coal, oil, natgas), the shortages would be severe.

            Not every state benefits from such foreign-money infusions. The money NM receives goes toward building schools, hospitals, university-expansions, K-12 schools, etc etc etc.

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          Denver’s problem is population increase. Thousands are moving in every month. Of course the whole state is suffering from too many people IMO. It was a far more convenient and pleasant place to live when there were half as may people here.

          I should mention that light rail has been far more in demand that originally expected. Being near a light rail line increases property values I hear.

          There is a school of thought that legal cannabis is a draw, I have to wonder. My how different Colorado is from Kansas just east of us!

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        For the last 6 months, I’ve been seeing the wide open spaces outside of my neighborhood, mostly in the West and Southwest. One of the things I’ve noticed is the proliferation of government mass transit, especially in rural areas and especially in California. A nearly lifelong resident of metro DC, I can also remember the days of privately-owned mass transit. DC had a bus and streetcar system. Of course, now metro DC is served by an inter-governmental transit agency that operates the new (built in the late 1970s) subway system, buses and very recently has dabbled in a few streetcars. In addition, the surrounding jurisdictions have their own public bus systems. There are two common elements between the California rural “mass transit ” buses and those operated by the DC suburban jurisdictions: a lot of empty vehicles rolling around and a lot more public employees. That, includes, by the way, the Los Angeles rail system.
        This is progress, they say.
        My experience in DC is that commuting by car, congestion and all, is still much faster and compares favorably on price with using public transit–unless your home and your office are each less than a 5-minute walk from a subway station.
        Mostly, the mass transit boom in Blue states appears to be a jobs program for public employees.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Don’t you think that if private enterprises could make money off public transit, they’d be doing it? Not everything that benefits the public would work on a “for profit” system. That’s why governments do things like mass transit.

          And, frankly, Washington is one of the cities most in need of its’ public transit, based on the times I’ve driven there. Can you imagine 6 million people trying to get around on that half-a**ed freeway system?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            My interpretation is that only the people who HAVE to be there, or want to be there, would seek out such an environment.

            What I have found is that more and more people are fleeing such areas and moving mostly West, to open-sky country.

            One of those regions is where I live and it is getting downright crowded here.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            “nobody goes there any more – it’s too crowded”

            -Yogi Berra

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            True, HDC, but we still need our major cities to function if we want our economy to function. And they won’t function without mass transit – particularly the ones on the eastern seaboard. New York, DC, Chicago, Boston and Philly alone account for a huge chunk (trillions of dollars, perhaps) of GDP, and they’d grind to a halt almost immediately without transit systems.

            So, are the roads in NM harder to maintain than most? I’d think not given the climate (then again, I don’t know much about where you live).

            Here in Colorado, most rural roads are decent, and they’re in the process of fixing I-70 east of Denver, which was probably the worst one I’ve been on. Maybe Colorado’s doing better than NM economically?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            FreedMike, yes, I understand that our major cities need to function, and they should be paying for whatever it is they want. That’s where 80% of the people live. Let them pay for it!

            During the nineties, I spend some time up at Grand Junction, CO, and they were experiencing a huge influx of people from CA who were cashing out of CA and moving to the wide-open spaces of Fruita, Mesa, Clifton, Grand Junction, Rifle, Palisades, Delta, Montrose, etc.

            So pretty soon, those newbies started to demand the services they had in CA, police, fire, ambulance, hospitals, doctors, etc.

            The people who already lived in those CO locations saw their property values skyrocket with taxes to match.

            Many could not afford to pay them and had to sell, albeit at inflated value.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      You must be the first libertarian who has advocated for shifting the tax burden onto children. An odd proposal, indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Love your proposal with the exception that it favors gas hogs by penalizing the most efficient vehicles. The devil is in the details. EV’s and hybrids do have to pay their fair share. Hmm fair share, penalize, fair share, penalize . . . .cognitive dissonance is a bitch.

  • avatar
    kobo1d

    Can you imagine Eisenhower running in today’s Republican party? He’s got more in common with Bernie

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Can you imagine Truman running for the Democrats? He’s got more in common with…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Truman supported the New Deal, more regulations on railroads, a minimum wage increase, a desegregated military and national healthcare. The highest tax bracket during his administration was 91-92%. He would have today’s GOP bouncing off the walls about what a commie he was while demanding to see his birth certificate.

        It’s odd how you right-wingers don’t seem to know that. Then again, there doesn’t seem to be much that you do know about.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Agreed he was a lib. Todays Dems would destroy him. That was the point, leftist.

          • 0 avatar
            ttacgreg

            In my 64 year life time, what once was far Right in this country is now what is labeled “center Left”

            I agree with a certain comedian who said, the Democratic party has moved to the Right, and the GOP had moved into the insane asylum.

            “lib” and “leftist”? Condescending much?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Eisenhower would be a RINO. Then again, Reagan probably would be, too.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      The current Right wing would call him a Marxist Communist. Not to mention how bad they would rip on him for his warning ( or was that a prophecy?) about the Military Industrial Complex?

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Mr. Eisenhower,
        Would you please inform the committee: were you or were you not ever an ally of the Soviet Union? Isn’t it true that you not only met with Joseph Stalin – a known communist leader – but even signed a treaty with him in Yalta, a known hideout for anti-American activity?

  • avatar
    seth1065

    laserwizard,
    Well you seem ok w taxing every man , women and child in the US, which I assume would fall on more poor folks than rich as I assume more poor folks have more kids, I say this as more latinos and immigrants have more kids than upper class folks. It would seem to be at odds with other programs that the gov offers. How would you plan to get your 1% from every one??? many folks owe no money on their income tax or do not file one. You also seem to leave out folks who use mass transit, as they would only have to pay 1% under your plan. I have said many times I am ok w more money going from my pocket to fix the roads and bridges if I had any faith in the Gov to spend the money in the correct way. In metro NY I spend over $400 bucks a month paying tolls for bridges that are falling apart, and have been for my life time. Where does my $400 a month go, some goes for the port authority of NY/NJ to build the new WTC center which they own, some goes for the high priced Union contracts they give out and some goes to pay the high cost of pensions to said workers, some goes to the trains in NY/NJ and the subways. I wonder how much really goes to fixing the roads.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Much of the damage to the roads comes from trucks. In essence, we’re all subsidizing the trucking industry.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but we should at least acknowledge that we’re doing this. And over the long run, we should be trying to replace at least some long-haul trucking with rail, in part so that we can reduce the damage.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Rail is drastically cheaper, once the infrastructure is built of course.

      http://www.rmi.org/RFGraph-Fuel_savings_potential_trucks_rail_intermodal

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        28, this is one time I completely agree with you. Allowing the dismantling of much of America’s rail infrastructure will prove to be a devastatingly shortsighted mistake.

        Did you know that trolleys were removed from many major American cities because GM lobbied to remove them? Kinda like everyone’s belief that the cholesterol in eggs will give you a heart attack, brought to you by neutral scholarly research funded by the breakfast cereal industry.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The GM conspiracy thing is more myth than reality.

          Streetcar systems were unpopular after WWII. Drivers blamed them for congestion and ridership was falling. The only systems that survived were those that local governments opted to subsidize, as the systems had generally been money losers, anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There’s truth in what you say — streetcar systems were mostly failing already — but GM did in fact lobby to replace them with rubber-tired GM buses in a lot of places. As usual, no conspiracy necessary when a profit motive is involved

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The streetcar systems would have been dismantled, anyway. They were built as for-profit systems by private operators who weren’t generating profits, particularly as car ownership increased and populations shifted to the new suburbs. They would have needed subsidies to maintain operations.

            At the time, it was believed that buses operating on shiny new parkways/freeways/etc. would be more flexible. That didn’t prove to be true, but that didn’t prevent them from believing it.

            This phenomena was not limited to the United States. There was a time when it was believed that the private car was the answer to our transportation problems, even in some cities in Europe. Now we’re seeing that this wasn’t necessarily the best bet, either, but they didn’t know that yet.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I don’t know who to believe – PCH or Jessica Rabbit?

          • 0 avatar
            skor

            Street cars were seen as being hopelessly obsolete. The future was in happy motoring, and the government….both federal and state….encouraged and subsidized the building of suburban infrastructure everywhere they could. Today places that still have street cars…aka ‘light rail’….are seeing huge increases in ridership. Google ‘Bergen-Hudson Light Rail’ a new system which has already surpassed it’s original ridership estimates and is looking to expand.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            She’s not bad. She’s just drawn that way.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “We’re building a streetcar, no expense spared! It will cover two miles, between a water fountain and a casino. It’s always been behind schedule, and will fail shortly after sucking millions more from the city.”

            -Cincinnati

        • 0 avatar
          ttacgreg

          Off topic but can’t resist. Just to throw in an obscure little detail about the cereal industry. We circumcise our infant males because a certain Kellogg had some weird story lines in his head, and some cultural influence to back them up. The idea was to discourage masturbation.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I agree 100% PCH. I wonder how much if the infrastructure spending could be saved if we invested the money into rail. The road wear cars produce on the roads is apparently a rounding error. I have been saying for a while that all the passenger rail money being spent should go to cargo projects instead.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I wonder how much road damage is done by city buses. They’re allowed higher axle loads than semi trucks, yet they primarily operate on roads where semi trucks are prohibited. Fortunately, around here, they drive around completely empty most of the time. I suppose that would help to minimize the damage.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Road wear increases by the power of four as the axle weight increases. Buses don’t weigh quite enough to make much of a difference, while regular passenger vehicles (both cars and trucks) are almost irrelevant.

        A loaded semi may weigh twice as much as a bus filled to capacity, but the relative increase in axle weight is far more than double. As it is, trucks are already often overloaded; US roads were not built to support more than 40 tons.

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          Not enough to make a difference? This APTA study suggests that a fully loaded city bus may do even more damage than a legally loaded semi truck.

          “In 1974, federal weight limits for single and tandem axles for all commercial motor vehicles, including transit buses, were set at 20,000 and 34,000 lb, respectively.”

          “Two‐axle 40‐ft buses comprise approximately two‐thirds of the transit bus fleet in the United States. The curb weights for these transit buses currently range between approximately 20,000 and 33,000 pounds, and fully‐loaded weights range from approximately 30,000 to 44,000 pounds.”

          “Based on available transit bus test data, fewer than half of all transit bus models comply with a 20,000 pound single axle weight limit when empty (i.e., at curb weight) and nearly all rear axles on transit buses longer than 35 feet exceed 24,000 pounds.”

          “Consequently, transit buses sometimes operate above legal weight limits and may pose problems associated with pavement design and road maintenance. These problems are particularly relevant for low functional road classes (e.g., collectors, local streets),which are less able to withstand transit bus axle loads than high functional road classes (e.g., Interstate highways, major arterials).”

          “It is well-established that one heavily overloaded axle may cause more pavement deterioration than several moderately overloaded axles.”

          “All axle loads contribute to pavement deterioration. However, the literature review revealed sparse and disparate results on the proportion of pavement deterioration and maintenance expenditures attributable to transit buses.”

          “Despite a lack of recorded empirical evidence, experience in some jurisdictions has led to the use of higher quality pavement materials and adjustments to mixture designs to improve the ability of pavements to withstand transit axle loads.”

          “In 1974, the CMV axle weight limits were raised to 20,000 pounds for single axles and 34,000 pounds for tandem axles. These same limits still exist today; however, over the past few decades transit buses have been granted several temporary and indefinite exemptions to these limits.”

          “A passenger car weighing 4,000 pounds (approximately 2,000 pounds per axle) is equivalent to 0.0004 ESALs. Assuming an empty transit bus is 1.25 ESALs, a fully‐loaded transit bus is 3.49 ESALs, and an overloaded transit bus is 5.55 ESALs, these buses would cause the equivalent amount of pavement damage as 3,100, 8,700, and 13,900 passenger cars, respectively (Raymond, 2004). Figure 12 extends this relationship (based on the fourth power relationship and assuming a passenger car ESAL of 0.0004) across a continuous spectrum of single axle weights. For example, this figure shows that nearly 15,000 passenger cars would cause the same pavement damage as a single, 28,000‐pound axle.”

          “One study found that 2.4% of the total pavement maintenance cost in New Jersey is attributable to buses (Boile et al. 2004). Other studies have estimated that “heavy buses are responsible for 70 to 90 percent of the damage to the streets on the bus routes” (Battelle, 2007, p. 3). In a 2003 report, pavement deterioration attributable to transit buses was estimated to be $0.72 per mile of travel, resulting in approximately $1.6 billion in pavement damage that year (Federal Transit Administration, 2003). Although these studies are not comparing the same road networks and transit systems, their disparities exemplify the complexity of estimating pavement damage due to transit buses and suggests that more research about transit bus pavement impacts may be necessary.”

          apta.com/resources/reportsandpublications/Documents/An-Analysis-of-Transit-Bus-Axle-Weight-Issues-TCRP-J11-T20.pdf

          If the axle loads on buses are acceptable, then why aren’t any other vehicles allowed the same?

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Emphasis on rail is a noble goal. Not having trucks mix it up with light vehicles is a safety and convenience thing too.
      Trucks just rip the shit out of I-70 here in Colorado. Between the freeze thaw cycle, the steep grades where trucks apply shear forces to the asphalt (on top of the load stress) in both uphill traction and downhill braking, and throw in the necessary mandated chains on those steep grades when it snows (6 months per year). Think about a truck clawing and slipping for traction with chains on. The texture of the pavement changes on the flats where the newly chained up trucks enter the highway even before they encounter any upgrade. Vail pass needs a re-surface every two years. A re-surface job is already rough after 6 months.
      That said, trucks are essential, and if we force them to pay more road taxes, I am assuming we end up paying more for the truck service. Ya pay one way or another.

      Upon further reflection (thanks edit function) If you less of something, tax it. Perhaps taxing heavy trucks more would add some sort of economic incentive to ship the freight by rail.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Trucks just rip the shit out of I-70 here in Colorado.”

        Just I-70? I seem to remember nice channels in I-25 that were exactly the width of a truck’s track and caused cars to effectively wobble between the tracks and in moderately heavy rain would cause two hydroplane channels creating havoc on the highway. As I recall, many of those truck tires were studded, causing the wear on the roads almost year-round. Talk about road hazard!

  • avatar
    NoID

    More of these, please! A simple rundown of the past and current state of affairs is refreshing and useful for the forming of opinions.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    Yes to the mention of the trucking subsidy, but the more important framing mechanism is the fact that the gas tax system in the US is functionally a very large subsidy from urban drivers to suburban and rural drivers (because you pay fuel taxes whereever you drive, but urban drivers’ miles are much more likely driven on roads that are funded locally through general funds).

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      IMO, the Feds should just axe the US Federal trust fund and let each state sort it out—or choose to live with awful roads.

      Fair deal as it was the Feds (our parents’/grandparents’ taxes) who built out the system.

      • 0 avatar
        bills79jeep

        Then the Feds would lose a big lever they like to use to force states to do what they want. For issues where the Federal gov’t can’t make a law that requires states to do something/stop something, they just threaten pulling funds. Depending on your political leanings and the issue being leveraged, it’s either useful or an abuse of power.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        +1, let states collect this tax and figure out the best uses. Citizens can vote accordingly.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This is good stuff.

    Might be interesting to know a little more background on the author, though.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    Will never happen in real life, BUT—

    If you’re really a “free marketer” (and not some Fox News robot), you gotta make commercial truckers and us consumers pay for all the damage that trucking freight does to the roads (yes I know, truckers have it hard enough as is. Yes consumers slightly benefit from trucking subsidies. Yes the freight railroads are chock full)

    Damage on a road goes up exponentially with weight. A standard-full tractor-trailer’s effect on the road makes an Escalade look eco-friendly.

    Want to bring back jobs from other countries? Stop making it insanely cheap to move 40,000 lbs of tube socks from Mauritius to Kansas City.

    again. this is purely theoretical as the open secret of American politics is to give the middle class a slice while the top 0.5% takes the rest of the pie and keep the middle class fighting among each other via some random culture war thing.

  • avatar
    zip89105

    I’ve had my fill of paying taxes to see the $$$ used for other purposes. Our highways are a disgrace, especially in California.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    From a 2015 LA Times article:

    “The fact is, roads are damaged by heavier vehicles more than light vehicles. The federal government has estimated that a 40-ton, 18-wheel truck causes the same damage as 9,600 midsize cars.”

    I believe this data is sourced from the GAO. Since long haul trucks are causing the lion’s share of damage to roads, it would make sense to charge them for this a la registration fees. This will increase COGS, but will more accurately address road maintenance funding. Goods will cost more, but the gas tax as we know it could be lowered dramatically.

    It makes too much sense for this to happen. Better to inefficiently stick car owners with state and fed gas taxes, while vehicles causing the damage don’t pay in. Gee, I wonder why trucking companies don’t pay in more? I wonder who’s lobbying efforts are… ah, never mind.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    So we let our highway funding source get eaten away by inflation over 30 years, and then we complain we have a highway funding crisis. Durrrr.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    A tax on all tires, on-road and off with no separate designation of commercial or private use based on the price of the tire itself could have a huge effect on the fund’s incoming balance without hurting individuals AND would be far more specific to high-mileage drivers than low-mileage when you consider the US average is roughly 12K miles per year and commercial drivers will travel hundreds of thousands of miles per year. Such a tax would serve all types of vehicles equally, no matter their fuel type (or lack thereof.) Fair to all.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Except for those of us who spend $10,000 a year or more on racing tires that never see a public road.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        You mean wealthy hobbyists?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        There could be exceptions as there usually are. The mere addition of the words “road tires” would be enough to eliminate that, no?

        However, anyone then caught running racing tires on the street would be subject to massive fines–and there are those who would do so to avoid the tax OR because they’re street racers.

        But tell me this: How would you tax a BEV that doesn’t burn fuel and from which its charge comes is the household electrical socket without hitting them with a huge up-front tax that no other car would pay?

        A tire tax would be no worse than a fuel tax as the tire tax could replace the fuel tax entirely. OR, you could submit to an annual inspection where the mileage of the car is read and you are individually taxed by the miles you drive before you can renew your registration.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          “road tires” = DOT-spec. Use of non-DOT tires would police itself fairly well, since they’re much more expensive and wear down to nothing in 5,000 miles or so.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      So now you want to provide drivers with an incentive to avoid replacing their worn tires. Great idea.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Many states already do tax tires.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Isn’t much of this a result of the great unrepealable law, the law of unintended consequences? States (California at the lead) raised gas taxes to encourage more efficient cars. The federal government imposed CAFE to effectively force less gas to be used. Then when there is a reduction in the use of fuel per mile used, everyone acts surprised.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The real issue isn’t improved fuel efficiency (which has been largely made up by increased driving); it’s that the per-gallon value of the federal gas tax has dropped by more than half in real dollars over the last 30 years.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I’m sure both Eisenhower and Truman after winning WWII would also be REALLY upset at a state passing a law that men can’t go into the women’s restroom, since both are basically the same as modern-day progressives.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Different legend
    I had always heard that Eisenhower first imagined and proposed an enhanced, unified interstate highway system back in the 1920’s when he tried to lead a mechanized force across the country. It took weeks longer than expected due to the poor road infrastructure, or in some places, a complete lack of usable roads and bridges. He felt it was a tactical and defensive imperative to be able to move military units with speed in case of foreign invasion.

  • avatar

    If the federal fuel tax rates were increased to cover the inflation in the 2 decades since last set, and state rates were similarly corrected in the states that have not done so — the highway trust fund would be solvent again and would pay most if not all of the costs of the highway system.

    Only a lack of gonadal material with the legislators prevents this simple, fair system of user fees that worked so well for a very long time.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      Yeah well, we are coming off of a 20-30 year period where those who think any problem can be fixed by lowering taxes, and/or dropping bombs have enjoyed undue influence.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Jack–It would be very easy for a tax exemption for use of tires for use off of public roads. There are currently exemptions for diesel fuel used for reefer units on trucks operating refrigeration units. Also gasoline used for off road use is refundable on a tax return such as a lawn mowing service. Even commercial airlines can file for a refund of Federal taxes for the fuel that is used for auxiliary purposes.

    It would be better to raise the fuel tax by 10 cents a gallon and designated the increase to be used for maintenance and building of roads and bridges. The Brent Spence Bridge crossing the Ohio River needs to be replaced.

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