Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Lawmakers face tough choices on transportation

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This story comes from a Wisconsin paper with a “Washington bureau” – but has this useful link

National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission:

… lawmakers are reluctant to embrace a recommendation most members of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission have made: to gradually raise the federal gasoline tax by 25 cents to 40 cents per gallon. The current tax is 18 cents per gallon.

In its January report, the commission also recommended other user fees such as custom duties and ticket fees, streamlining the environmental impact review process for transportation projects and trimming more than 100 transportation programs into 10 national interest programs. The 12-member commission approved the report on a bipartisan 9-3 vote.

The commission estimated the federal government will have to spend a minimum of $225 billion a year through 2025 for highway, bridge, public transit, freight rail and passenger rail service. State government and the private sector also would have to spend more to keep goods and people — the nuts and bolts of the economy — moving.

Yes, but when highway bridges start falling down due to neglect of maintenance, it does tend to concentrate minds a bit. I do not know why trimming EAs is supposed to help. That would enable new things to be built sooner, but usually the EA process determines that the proponents had not been nearly careful enough in their planning. And unless they are forced to, don’t expect P3s to be any better. And P3s are what some see, apparently, as the way to greater fairness. No, really, that’s what it says!

I wonder if the Commission took into account the way gas sales are going to start falling. One projection was that within 18 years the US will need a different source of revenue altogether.

But of course the greatest contrast for us north of 49 is how much the US federal government is into transportation compared to the imperviousness of Ottawa to our problems.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 3, 2008 at 10:30 am

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