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New Report: Road Funding From Non-Road Users Doubled in 25 Years
Posted By Elana Schor On November 24, 2009 @ 2:38 pm In Gas Tax,Highway Expansion,Highway Repair,Streetsblog Capitol Hill,Transportation Policy | 9 Comments
The myth  that U.S. roads "pay for themselves" thanks to user fees is a subject that's likely familiar to many Streetsblog Capitol Hill readers -- but just how much of the nation's highway funding is provided by charging drivers?
The answer may surprise even active critics of the current asphalt-centric transportation system. Between 1982 and 2007, the amount of federal highway revenue derived from non-users of the highway system has doubled, according to a study  released today by Subsidyscope.
Analyzing Federal Highway Administration data dating back to 1957, the dawn of the Interstate system, Subsidyscope researchers found that non-users of the highway system contributed $70 billion for nationwide road construction and maintenance in 2007. In 1982, by contrast, highway contributions from non-users totaled just $35 billion (in 2007 dollars).
Today's study also found that the share of road funding generated by user fees fell to 51 percent in 2007, down from 61 percent just a decade earlier. (The accounting used by Subsidyscope, a joint project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Sunlight Foundation, accounted for the use of about one-sixth of federal gas tax revenue to pay for transit.)
What has caused the government's increasingly rapid dependence on non-road user fees -- which more often than not take the form of direct transfers from the Treasury -- to pay for roads?
Subsidyscope points out that the federal gas tax has stayed stagnant since 1993, rapidly losing value as inflation climbs, but the growing popularity of bond issuances as a way to pay for new roads is also a factor. According to Subsidyscope's research, the value of new bonds issued to pay for highways reached $24.7 billion in 2007, up from just $6 billion in new bonds issued in 1982 (converted to 2007 dollars).
Bond offerings, which often represent states and localities playing a greater role in transportation planning, do not guarantee that users will be paying for new highway construction -- rather, bonds depend on market conditions to allow a successful leveraging of debt, and the recent economic downturn has forced  many governments to limit their bonding plans.
Article printed from Streetsblog Capitol Hill: http://dc.streetsblog.org
URL to article: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2009/11/24/new-report-road-funding-from-non-road-users-doubled-in-25-years/
URLs in this post:
 Subsidyscope: http://www.subsidyscope.com/transportation/highways/funding/
 The myth: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2009/09/17/a-few-words-on-user-fees/
 has forced: http://govpro.com/public_works/highways/bond_turmoil_lead/
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