Sales Tax, Gas Tax, Mileage Tax: How To Pay For America's Roads? Page 2

January 10, 2013

Traffic in Atlanta, Georgia during rush hour (via Wikimedia)


There's no question that America's roadways are in need of repair. Pew Research recently revealed that over a third of U.S. roads are in "substandard" condition. Our bridges aren't faring much better: roughly 25% of them are quietly crumbling. This may explain why preliminary reports indicate that U.S. traffic fatalities increased in 2012, after many years of declines.

There's some truth to the CEI's claim that relying on sales taxes for roadway funding is a bad idea. Sales taxes fluctuate wildly and don't necessarily reflect roadway usage. (And theoretically, you'd like the two to mirror one another.) Moreover, sales taxes typically place a heavier burden on lower-income Americans, some of whom may not drive at all.

On the other hand, taxing gasoline may be a losing game, too. With fuel economy set to reach 54.5 mpg within 12 years, gas usage will slowly fall. And as gas usage falls, so will gas tax revenue.

In theory, VMT seems like the fairest way to generate revenue for America's infrastructure, but can it be done while keeping costs in check and keeping drivers' data private? The GAO suggests instituting a pilot program so that Congress and federal agencies like the Department of Transportation have more data to make an informed decision. 

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