April 6, 2022
Infrastructure has been in the news lately as one of our nation’s most significant problems. Our population is growing, and the strain on our aging bridges, roads, and highways is only getting worse and worse. Road maintenance funding is hard to come by even though it is desperately needed. However, something must change in the future, or we will have serious problems that will cause significant damage and may even cost lives. Let’s discuss the problem's significance, why we have such a shortage of funding, and what we can do to rectify the situation.
America’s infrastructure includes roads, bridges, highways, dams, etc. However, much of it hasn’t been maintained well since it was built, and sometimes inspections aren’t as detailed as they should be. You may be shocked to learn that 49% of roads in the United States are in a state of disrepair. These roads have adverse effects, from causing unnecessary wear and tear on our vehicles to even potentially causing accidents. Poor road conditions lead to over 22,000 traffic fatalities every year and contribute to 38% of injuries. So the problem is significant and must be solved quickly before more lives are lost.
The short answer is that there is not enough funding. Funding for infrastructure initiatives comes from the Highway Trust Fund. This fund draws money from revenue collected from the gas tax. However, there are two problems with the gas tax that render it insufficient for funding major infrastructure projects.
Firstly, it hasn’t been adjusted to meet inflation in over 25 years. That means that infrastructure funding is a quarter of a century behind. Of course, raising the gas tax is a wildly unpopular move, and by now, it would be such an increase that nobody would ever approve it. Increasing the gas tax is not an option.
Secondly, not everyone pays the gas tax anymore, or at least not equally. Electric vehicles or drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles do not contribute equally to the gas tax as drivers of regular vehicles. A large portion of the population does not pay into road maintenance, even though they contribute to wear and tear.
In the last several years, funding infrastructure projects has come from large government allocations. For example, President Biden recently passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill meant to improve infrastructure initiatives, including making our roads more safe. These bills pass every few years, albeit not typically in this amount.
However, these bills are short-term solutions. We need a long-term solution to funding our infrastructure consistently in the future.
The most popular method of funding infrastructure initiatives that have been proposed is the pay per mile tax or road usage charging. Road usage charging is a practice in which drivers are charged not for how much gas they use but for how many miles they travel. There are many names for this type of program. It is also known as mileage-based user fees (MBUF), distance-based user fees (DBUF), mileage tax, vehicle miles traveled tax (VMTT). All of these terms refer to the same concept. Three states have currently implemented road usage charges: Oregon, Utah, and Connecticut.
There are many benefits to road usage charging.
Our blog and Info Center have a wealth of information regarding road usage charging. Feel free to browse and see what we have to offer on the subject. And subscribe to our blog to learn more and stay updated on what’s to come!