Can Transportation in This Country Be Fixed?

March 16th, 2015

Many states in the US are searching for ways to fix the country’s deteriorating transportation system. The network of roads and highways stretching across America is crumbling.  Georgia is no exception, and is one of many states considering raising the gas tax, imposing other taxes or whatever it takes to be able to keep laying the asphalt on all the potholes around town, and to keep the bridges standing.  Every state has similar problems, and there are many different ideas on solutions.  We'll examine just a few. 

Georgia’s tax revenue has usually been the choice for the funding for most state and federal transportation projects, even though much increase in gas taxes hasn't occurred in the last decade or so.  Increases in this tax would have slowed the aging process of major roadways and bridges, but with the advent of the recession, which stalled or dried up many of the states maintenance projects for months on end, which by the way would have eased driving conditions and congestion, and with the introduction of hybrid and electric cars, which increase fuel efficiency but stagnate the flow of money from increased gas taxes, Georgia and the nation have had to turn to creative alternative solutions.

Florida has found a way to free itself from relying on federal money so much by relying more and more on the local and civic establishments for a mix of source funding.  This has given the state a lot of flexibility to finish projects without waiting indefinitely for federal monies which usually call for long waiting periods & long project delays. They look at who is using the roads the most, acting accordingly. They lean toward a pay as you grow funding program, with new residents coming in daily, and visitors who will pay the tolls and take the burdens off of the locals to support the brunt of the cost.

Virginia lawmakers took a bold step in 2013 that they expect will help their state garner $3billion for roads and transit projects over the next 6 years. Prior to this step the state had not raised any real revenue since 1986.  As a part of the new legislation Virginia eliminated 17.5-cents per gallon gas tax, replacing it with a statewide general sales tax hike from 5-5.3 percent.  Virginia law does not prevent gas tax revenue from being used to fund transit, as Georgia law does.  Currently Georgia is trying to come with ways to find at least a $1Billion to address the state's deteriorating infrastructure backlog on projects.  And that figure does not address future transit expansion plans, which metro Atlanta residents believe to be the best long term solution to the traffic woes, according to a recent survey by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Oregon pursued different ideas in the taxation game.  Taxing drivers based on the number of miles driven versus the amount of gasoline consumed.  This concept is far fairer to the consumer. The alternative would be for owners of electric vehicles, hybrids and cars with the higher end gas mileage to pay less than the drivers of higher end mileage vehicles, despite the same wear and tear on the roads.  'Twenty years ago, all vehicles got about 20 miles per gallon,' said Michelle Godfrey, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Transportation. 'That's not the case anymore. And it's becoming less and less true. If we, as a nation, are going to seriously tackle reducing gas consumption, we've got to find other ways,' she said.  Oregon began studying the idea of a per-mile road usage tax in 2001 and has initiated two state pilot programs.  Drivers in the program continue to pay gas taxes at the pump, but the state refunds those payments at the end of the year. This has a limited number of participants at present. The state wants to see how well it does before rolling it out on a wide scale state-wise.  Oregon currently has 30-cents per gallon gas tax that is not tied into inflation.  They tried a tax on electric vehicles, similar to the one what is currently proposed here in Georgia, but it failed.  It was widely unpopular and repealed.

 All agree to keep seeking and the solution will be found.   Everyone is looking for a silver bullet, but no one thing works equally for all states, or even all state counties.  This is why drawing on the ideas of other states is crucial in this never ending story.