ABOUT 50% OF MAJOR ROADS DON’T PAY FOR THEMSELVES
Gas taxes do not cover the costs of construction and maintenance.
By my estimation, most people in this country think that gas taxes and other vehicle-related user fees cover the cost of building and maintaining our nation’s roadways.
Those people are wrong, unfortunately, to the great detriment of our national transportation policy. The belief that roads are self-supporting is a big part of the reason that we continue to build new capacity even as our roadways deteriorate, and fail to invest in more cost-effective and efficient forms of transportation such as: literally everything else.
The Center for American Progress has a new report out that takes a close look at exactly how wrong this self-sufficiency argument is, and what share of our nation’s major roadways are bringing in less money than they cost to maintain. What they find is that, for the most heavily traveled roads (interstates and principal arterials), at least 48 percent don’t even bring in enough revenue to cover basic maintenance. In urban areas with populations over one million, that number jumps to 64 percent. And that’s just maintenance—if you’re asking how many get enough drivers to pay off initial construction and maintenance, you can probably expect much larger numbers.
Shane Phillips is a housing activist living in Los Angeles. He blogs for Better Institutions and Abundant Housing LA.