Do Roads Pay for Themselves?

Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding

A fantastic new report has just been published by U.S. PIRG Education Fund that explores the history of highway funding in the US and the true costs of roadways. It provides excellent rebuttals to the argument that light rail and other mass transit solutions are unacceptable because they don’t support themselves — neither do roadways!

A brief excerpt:

Highway advocates often claim that roads “pay for themselves,” with gasoline taxes and other charges to motorists covering—or nearly cover- ing—the full cost of highway construction and maintenance.

They are wrong.

Highways do not—and, except for brief periods in our nation’s history—never have paid for themselves through the taxes that highway advocates label “user fees.” Yet highway advocates continue to suggest they do in an attempt to secure preferential ac- cess to scarce public resources and to shape how those resources are spent.

Download the full report (1.2MB PDF): Do Roads Pay for Themselves?

Also — Richard Florida weighs in on same report here.

The report cites research by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Subsidyscope Project, which found that “user fees paid for only 51 percent of highway costs, down 10 percent over the course of a single decade.” Even if state, local, and federal governments spent every penny of these fees and taxes on highways, they would still only pay for less than two-thirds of their cost. But they don’t: A significant portion of these revenues aren’t even spent on highways but used for other purposes.


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