The gas tax is broken. There, I said it. And since raising the gas tax is political seppuku, lawmakers are looking at other ways to raise the necessary funds to repair our nation’s infrastructure. Pay-per-mile tolls, here we come!
It is going to take a whole lot of money to repair America’s crumbling roads, and there just isn’t enough money going into the Federal highway fund to maintain, never mind improve, our nation’s roads. Don’t take my word on it though; there’s any number of very scary reports out there on the structurally deficient and obsolete roads and bridges carrying hundreds of thousands of cars every day.
But with the age of electric cars dawning, and the political tug-of-war going on in Washington, there are very few options available to raising the necessary funding. One idea being bandied by the White House, ominously called the “Transportation Opportunities Act,” would launch a pilot project to raise congestion charges during peak traffic times to discourage people from traveling by car, as well as raising the necessary funds required to improve the area around the toll. London was the first major city in the West to implement this charge, and while it didn’t reduce CO2 output, it has reduced congestion and poured some much-needed money into the Royal coffers.
A second proposition allows for the tolling of smaller area, via electronic transponders, with the funds again being used to maintain and improve the area where they are collected. I like this idea better, as under the current system urban motorists pay a majority of the federal and state road taxes, even though there are many more miles of roads spanning rural areas and states. Federal funding is awarded based on how many miles of highway a state has, how far residents drive, and how much fuel they burn, so the fewer miles residents drive and the less fuel they burn, the less money a state gets. Not exactly an incentive to reduce driving time or congestion.
The gas tax system will eventually need to be replaced as electric cars roll out en masse and hybrids deliver better and better fuel economy, leaving an unfair burden on the many Americans who rely on heavy-duty vehicles to run their businesses. And the truth is, America’s infrastructure is at its bursting point. There are too many cars, too much congestion, and not enough money to make a difference. Nobody wants to pay more taxes, I’d feel a lot better knowing that the tax money I am paying is getting directly reinvested into the roads I drive every day. And it is a hell of a lot less invasive then tracking your mileage via a GPS device, which is being considered in a surprising cross-section of states. The money could go towards more public transportation options, better roadways, so on and so forth.
But what about the rest of you? Gas tax, congestion charges, or more highway tolls?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.