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U.S. Open to Usage Fees to Fund Roads

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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A majority of Americans now support the use of road usage fees to fund transportation infrastructure work, according to a new survey published by engineering firm HNTB.

At the same time, the survey found that a majority of Americans still favor increased taxes instead of usage fees for funding specific road projects.

highway with yellow lines / fstockphoto

About 69 percent of respondents said they believe priced managed lanes should be considered when making improvements to U.S. highways.

The survey, Transportation Mobility 2016, published as part of the firm’s America THINKS series and conducted by Kelton Global, found that about 65 percent of Americans say they are likely to support usage fees as a way to fund road construction and maintenance. That’s up from about 50 percent in 2014.

Types of Fees

Examples of user fees that could be utilized in funding infrastructure improvements include mileage-based fees and priced managed lanes.

A mileage-based system would levy a fee based on the distance a vehicle is driven. Minnesota has been testing a method for collecting mileage information as part of an exploration of a mileage-based fee system.

The state’s Department of Transportation notes that with the rise of hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles, revenues from fuel taxes are likely to drop in the coming years; mileage-based fees provide an alternative way to fund infrastructure.

There are numerous ways a priced managed lane system can be run; the basic idea, according to the Federal Highway Administration, is to place a tolled lane within an already-existing highway. Drivers who are willing to pay a fee could then use the tolled, and presumably less congested, lane.

Some form of priced managed lanes exist on numerous interstates throughout the country, according to the FHWA, including I-95 near Washington, D.C., and I-45 in Houston.

HNTB was responsible for the design of a dynamic variable-pricing managed-lane system on I-15 in San Diego.


Changing Opinions

”More and more people realize that road-usage fees options, such as vehicle miles traveled or price managed lanes, are needed to fill the gaps resulting from declining ability of federal gas taxes to provide needed funds,” said Matthew Click, AICP, HNTB national director of priced managed lanes and vice president.

“Yet, the use of traditional approaches, such as federal gas taxes, sales and property taxes, continue to be favored by certain segments of the population,” Click added.

According to the survey, about 69 percent of respondents said they believe priced managed lanes should be considered when making improvements to U.S. highways.

When asked specifically about methods of funding local roads, bridges and tunnels, though, 55 percent still said increases in taxes (property, sales and fuel taxes, specifically) were favorable to user fees. A similar portion (56 percent) favor tax increases over user fees for funding interstate highway work.

Millenials (those age 18-34) were overwhelmingly in favor of taxes over usage fees (68 percent favored taxes). Generation X favoried taxes by 58 percent; a slim majority (51 percent) of seniors preferred taxes over usage fees as well. Only 43 percent of baby boomers said they preferred taxes.

In 2014, the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which funds road construction and mass transit nationwide, brought in nearly $34 million from federal fuel taxes, according to the FHWA.


Tagged categories: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Infrastructure; North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Taxes; Transportation

Comment from David Cerchie, (5/3/2016, 7:44 AM)

I would support the priced managed lane approach provided we could adopt a universal nationwide e-pass system for paying/collecting toll fees. I would also like to see only minimum speed limits for managed lanes so that cars with performance capabilities and excellent safety features could have a legitimate place to flex. Something like the autobahn would be great, particularly for moving between large metro areas. It might even be possible to collect enough revenue from such "autobahn" lanes to actually fund additional road maintenance.

Comment from Annette Rettig, (5/3/2016, 8:55 AM)

Or perhaps the government could cut wasteful spending and use our tax dollars wisely like they were originally supposed to do. Imagine how much of "our money" the government would have to fund the transportation infrastructure then.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/3/2016, 11:03 AM)

Fuel taxes have never covered the actual cost of funding roads at any level (local, state/provincial or federal)...most of the money for roads comes from general revenue (i.e. income and property taxes) rather than fuel taxes. I find it a bit of a red herring to state that there is a "declining ability of federal gas taxes to provide needed funds." That said, I can see a system like the 407 in the Toronto area working (transponder based usage toll) if the new infrastructure was done right and had benefit...but, like David, I think they need a definite benefit (i.e. get around badly congested roads, provide opportunities not available elsewhere) to be worthwhile. I also agree with Annette that trimming government waste and bureaucracy would save a lot of money that could be used where it is actually needed.

Comment from Car F., (5/3/2016, 11:11 AM)

In the meantime the rich, the privileged plutocrats who own the government are diverting their taxes to tax heavens avoiding to pay their share of the cost of maintaining highways so they can ride their limousines comfortably.

Comment from Wiliam Hardy, (5/4/2016, 10:07 AM)

"The state’s Department of Transportation notes that with the rise of hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles, revenues from fuel taxes are likely to drop in the coming years; mileage-based fees provide an alternative way to fund infrastructure". Did they forget that they mandated this? This is a problem of their own creation. Mileage based fees will do nothing but create another problem with lower wage earners being hit the hardest, as goes with most other fee and tax increases. The mandate of fuel efficient cars has cost thousands of lives due to the overall sturdiness of the vehicles. Lets not forget that this is all being done in the name of junk climate science that has been disputed by those who are actually scientists. Govt. grants are only given to those who support the Govt. position. None are given to those who want to find the truth.

Comment from Car F., (5/5/2016, 11:00 AM)

Wiliam Hardy....and earth is square and dinosaurs and human co-existed at the same time, but the most troublesome question still remains unanswered: how many angels can dance on a pinhead?

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