I doubt if I would get an argument from anyone if I say…”the condition of our highways and bridges is a mess!”
The truth is, they are aging and inadequate for 21st-century trucking. What should we expect from a highway system authorized by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956? These highways, largely built over fifty years ago, only account for about 1 percent of all roadways. Yet, they represent about half of the miles traveled each year by heavy-duty trucks.
At DriverSource, we support any effort to improve our road and bridge infrastructure. While fuel taxes have long been the revenue source for improvements, other funding ideas are worth considering. As Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations has stated…our crumbling infrastructure is a long-standing issue that costs the trucking industry billions of dollars a year in lost productivity.
How to Best Fund Upgrades
The American Trucking Association has expressed support for a gas increase of 5 cents a year for four years that would raise $340 billion for infrastructure fixes. But, is that going to provide enough funding to fix the problem? Many experts think not!
A report by the Transportation Research Board in December 2018 estimated that rebuilding and widening the interstates would require at least $57 billion a year for the next 20 years. To achieve that amount of funding via fuel taxes would require a 360 percent increase over current Federal-mandated levels. Another concern about fuel taxes is the inevitable shrinking revenue stream resulting from the expected proliferation of electric vehicles.
In the opinion of many, taking 20 years to rebuild and widen our highways and replace the bottleneck interchanges plaguing our cities is not practical. Experts feel improvements are needed now. Congress is reluctant to raise fuel taxes. A better alternative, according to some experts, involves issuing bonds now as a revenue stream to finance the cost. The bonds could be paid off by electronic tolling, a new approach to the tolling we are all familiar with.
Proposals On How Electronic Tolling Would Work:
- Tolls would be collected electronically and charged per mile. Importantly, it would capture the road use by both gas AND electric cars.
- Tolls on rebuilt corridors would be required to apply to all vehicles (both in-state and out-of-state) using it. This would eliminate discrimination against trucks.
Replacing the traditional 20th-century toll roads with a new electronic tolling that requires participation by all drivers, including truckers, may prove to be the fairest way to involve everyone in financing much-needed infrastructure improvements. Let’s hope!
Bill D for DriverSource