A report published in January 2011 by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund thoroughly debunks the myth that roads pay for themselves through gas and vehicle taxes. The report, Do Roads Pay For Themselves? Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding, asserts that roads have taken $600 billion more out of Federal funds than driving-related taxes have put in since the start of the interstate highway system.
In Texas, as in many other states, gas tax is exempt from sales tax, which serves to further deplete the general funds (Texas is currently facing a mult-billion dollar budget deficit.) What’s more, the taxes that are charged exclusively to drivers only cover about half of the cost of building roads. In general, the authors of the U.S. PIRG report assert that gas taxes would need to be 20 to 70 cents higher per gallon to pay the full cost of roads.
However, all of these economic calculations do not included all the negative externalities associated with driving, including increased health care costs and lower productivity at work due to inactivity, loss of time due to congestion, as well as factors discussed in the report such as environmental impacts, national security concerns, increased infrastructure costs of car-centric development, and negative impacts on quality of life.
This report is a great tool for advocates and cyclists faced with that assertion that cyclists don’t pay for the roads. Download the full report here, or read commentary from Streetsblog here.