The PUSH for Increased Highway Funding
For years politicians have pointed to the need for increased highway funding. To most drivers, the reasons are obvious. We all have a traffic horror story that comes to mind. Bottlenecks and gridlock have caused most of us to miss meetings, family dinners, or Little League opening pitches. Experiencing these delays while imprisoned in our vehicles is irritating. Adding to these frustrations are the costs of damages to cars and trucks caused by potholes and crumbling highways, not to mention the real potential danger from falling overpasses and bridges.
DriverSource, like others in the trucking industry, would like to see increased funding for road improvements. Improved roads would result in substantial cost savings in transporting freight. More importantly, it would lead to safer roads and a reduction of truck-related accidents.
We Need Congress To Pass An Infrastructure Bill This Year!
James Burg, President of James Burg Trucking and Co-Chair of the ATA’s Infrastructure Funding Task Force, is a passionate advocate for highway funding. Burg emphasized why roadway funding is needed so badly.
“Texas A&M did an ongoing congestion cost study showing it represents about $320 billion per year. It’s a number representative of all users (not just truckers) of roadways, reflecting the costs associated with roadway congestion such as increased gas or diesel used when sitting in bottlenecks or having to move at slow speeds. There are also costs associated with damages to vehicles and injuries caused by poorly maintained roads.”
According to Burg, 2019 is THE year to get Congress to pass an infrastructure bill to fund improvements to our roads. He feels that if we don’t get it done this year, it may not happen for several more years. With next year being an “election” year, chances of an infrastructure bill being passed at that time are diminished.
How to Fund Road Improvements – Many Ideas Have Been Suggested
Burg believes we need $100 billion per year over the next 10 years to bring our roads back to a B+ standard. Traditional funding through fuel taxes isn’t going to provide the revenue needed for improvements. Taxing based on vehicle miles traveled is another option being considered. But, the technology that can accurately track miles is probably ten years in the future. More toll roads are another option. However, only about 5% of our roads would even quality for tolling.
A Highway Federal Tax might be an option since we all benefit from products transported over our highways (even if we don’t drive). Burg acknowledges that such a new tax would be difficult for Congress to pass.
The fact that the current federal fuel tax has not increased in more than twenty years has resulted in some states increasing the fuel tax at the state level. However, higher state-level fuel taxes cannot solve the problem alone. Burg stated that Congress should have indexed the fuel tax long ago to allow for inflationary prices on road improvements along with the improved fuel efficiency of vehicles. Had they done that, we would not be in the current deficit situation we find ourselves regarding adequate road funding.