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Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension, Inc.

New report from US Public Interest Research Group shows roads do not pay for themselves

In discussions about funding for different forms of transportation (developing high speed and passenger rail, improving freight rail capacity, supporting city and regional buses and light rail, and highways) we often hear that highways "pay for themselves" while other forms of transportation require subsidies. A new report challenges highway advocates' claim that highways "pay for themselves" with gasoline taxes and other charges to motorists.

For example:
  • Federal gasoline taxes were originally intended for debt relief, not roads. Federal gas taxes have typically not been devoted exclusively to highways.   Since its 1934 inception, Congress only temporarily dedicated gas tax revenues fully to highways during the brief 17-year period beginning in 1956. This was at the start of construction for the Interstate highway network, a project completed in the 1990s.
  • Highways don't pay for themselves: since 1947, the amount of money spent on highways, roads and streets has exceeded the amount raised through gasoline taxes and other so-called "user fees" by $600 billion (2005 dollars), representing a massive transfer of general government funds to highways.
  • Highways "pay for themselves" less today than ever. Currently, highway "user fees" pay only about half the cost of building and maintaining the nation's network of highways, roads and streets.
  • The amount of money a particular driver pays in gasoline taxes bears little relationship to his or her use of roads funded by gas taxes. Drivers pay gasoline taxes for the miles they drive on local streets and roads, even though those proceeds are typically used to pay for state and federal highways.
  • State gas taxes are often not "extra" fees. Most states exempt gasoline from the state sales tax, diverting much of the money that would have gone into a state's general fund to roads.
  • These figures fail to include the many costs imposed by highway construction on non-users of the system, including damage to the environment and public health and encouragement of sprawling forms of development that impose major costs on the environment and government finances.

You can download the entire report here: Do Roads Pay for Themselves? Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding