The fund that the United States uses for the maintenance of its roads is increasingly falling short, and one of the main reasons is the more efficient cars we drive today. As fuel economy improves, the amount raised by the nation's gas taxes falls, and it is those taxes that pay for much of the highway upkeep in the country. That leaves the question of how we continue to maintain the roads.

The answers are hugely varied and generally come up first from the states. Just increasing the federal or states gas taxes to make up for the shortfall is obviously one option, but raising taxes is a huge no-no politically, which is leading to other solutions. San Francisco leaders proposed a per-mile charge for vehicles, and Virginia considered eliminating its fuel tax entirely in favor of a higher sales tax and a $100 fee for hybrids and EVs. The federal plan supported by the Obama administration would close a tax loophole on businesses and allow states to charge tolls on more roads.

This budget shortfall has been looming for years, though. One estimate in 2011 calculated that the fund to repair roads would lose $65 billion from 2017-2025 given the higher CAFE standards and decreasing fuel use, and another from 2012 figured it at $57 billion from 2012-2022. On the federal level, the US Highway Trust Fund could run out of money by August.

One seemingly universal quality in all of these plans is their unpopularity. According to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts raised its state gas tax last year to 24 cents per gallon, the state's first increase in 20 years. The rate continues to rise to match inflation, but a repeal of these hikes is on the November ballot. A group of Californians is also fighting against that state's proposed fuel tax increase in 2015. They claim it's a secret cost to consumers and would also increase the prices of goods by raising shipping costs, according to CSP Net.

What do you think? This is obviously a complicated issue, but the country must maintain its roads somehow. Has the gas tax run its course, meaning there needs to be a new way to fund the roads, or should we simply raise it? Let us know in the poll below and in Comments.



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  • 215 Comments
      Nathan
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm confused by the poll options, who came up with these?
        montoym
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Nathan
        I also hate how there;s always an option for "I'm not sure", or "I don't know" or "I don't care". Well, if any of those is true, please refrain from providing your info in the poll in the first place. Don't give them a default answer that mucks up the results.
      JakeY
      • 6 Months Ago
      If they are going to come up with an alternative, the rate should reflect the level of damage/wear a particular vehicle exerts on the road. And MPG does not reflect this. For example, a semi truck may get 6 mpg, a typical car about 30 mpg, so about a 5x multiplier. However, the amount of road wear a semi truck exterts on a road vs a car is much more than 5x (it's on the order of thousands of times worse). At the very least it should be indexed by weight (and if possible the tires too). Even though such a scheme may penalize efficiency, as long as it fairly reflects the relative road wear of vehicles, I would support it.
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        @JakeY
        A "per axle" or "per tire" tax would work. No need to guess at how much damage a vehicle does to the road. The engineers that build vehicles already classify how much load will be put on the road surface, by requiring more axles or tires.
      bcsaxman
      • 6 Months Ago
      JakeY has the right idea. The gas tax is still the best single means we have of taxing different types of vehicle equitably, but even though it accounts to some degree for the greater damage a heavier, less fuel efficient vehicle has on the roads, it's not enough to cover the actual effect. Meanwhile, simply raising it across the board does more harm than good, as it penalizes both the less affluent AND the more fuel efficient (the latter due to the rational for raising it at all is due to more fuel efficient cars). The first thing I would do is make all fuel & transportation related taxes, tolls and fees be used EXCLUSIVELY for repairing (first), and building (second) the venues they relate too. So that means, tolls for bridges are used only for maintenance and/or building of bridges. Tolls, taxes on road-pumped fuel, and registration & titling fees are used only for roads and signage & signaling on roads. Airports and railways, same thing. I bet $100 that if just those changes are made, 90%+ of any funding issues U.S. transport systems have will disappear.
      Mike Pulsifer
      • 6 Months Ago
      ...and then you have states like Maryland who raid their transportation funds to cover their general budget deficits and then ask for more taxes for roads. MD roads and highways killed my Z4.
      sdt85
      • 6 Months Ago
      The issue is that the fuel tax barely even goes to road construction and maintenance. Change the law so at least 80% of it applies toward roads and you'll be fine.
      Chris
      • 6 Months Ago
      I was going to add my comments but ducman69 said it all and is absolutely right on the money.
      John McPherson
      • 6 Months Ago
      Who would vote with only those options? No, more study needs to be done to allocate the cost of the roads to those who use them and set the requirements. This is not a proper pole but rather a shaft.
      Grendal
      • 6 Months Ago
      No matter how you look at it, you will be taxed. The only discussion here is which way. With new power trains for more advanced cars there is less gas use. I expect they will come up with alternative methods to guarantee their taxes.
      Snowdog
      • 6 Months Ago
      "Virginia considered eliminating its fuel tax entirely in favor of a higher sales tax and a $100 fee for hybrids and EVs. " If if eliminates the fuel tax entirely what is the purpose of the $100 fee on EVs/Hybrids? Spite?
      DaveMart
      • 6 Months Ago
      Anybody else can't be bothered with this site if they continue to have a ridiculously intrusive full page width 'Shop for a vehicle' pop up across the width of the page? I don't even live in the US and so am hardly likely to buy a car from a US dealer.
        Joeviocoe
        • 6 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        AdBlock Plus... it is your friend.
          Pj Taintz
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          you can selectivly turn ads on and off as well, I for example leave them on sites that I either support, or are unobtrusive. But im with this guy the banner ad on the top of this page does suck
          Joeviocoe
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          So basically, AOL autos will not go to a paid service... since their Patrons are not the "paying type" like business journals. I am fine with ad support... but up to the point when the content takes a back seat.
        DarylMc
        • 6 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        Hi DaveMart +1 for Joeviocoe's advice.
      Avinash Machado
      • 6 Months Ago
      Cut the military budget and use it for infrastructure.
        Db
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        Government pensions alone take up more tax dollars than all defense spending, and that is during war footing. There are better ways to spend money than to reduce our ability to defend ourselves. Start by reducing or eliminating public sector unions. They should be outlawed, as they are unionized against the taxpayer who has no say in how those tax dollars are spent. Not unlike employees doing whatever they want with a business owners money, paying themselves whatever they want, however they want and whenever they want, all without the owner's consent. In private sectors, that is called theft and embezzlement. In the public sector, that sadly appears to be the lay of the land.
          Matt44
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Db
          Technoir, In the public sector (read government) the tax payers are the business owners.
        SpikedLemon
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        That's hardly a popular statement. In retrospect: I bet there were better ways to spend nearly $400B (yep, that's Billion with a capital B) than on the F35 which still isn't ready. It would have paved a lot of roads, put a lot of food into food banks, built up a lot of small businesses with low-cost loans, etc...
        montoym
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Avinash Machado
        At least providing for the national defense is one of the original intents of the Federal Government.
      knightrider_6
      • 6 Months Ago
      There is a very simple solution - tie the infrastructure budget to defense budget. For every dollar we spend on maintaining military bases outside US, we have to spend five dollars on building roads and bridges. For every dollar we spend on purchasing fighter jets or aircraft carriers, we have to spend ten dollars on high speed rail. For every dollar given to Haliburton, we have to give $50 back to middle class in tax credits. For every school we build in Afghanistan, we have to build a hundred in the US.
        Cayman
        • 6 Months Ago
        @knightrider_6
        States typically don't build military bases on foreign soil, purchase aircraft carriers, give money to Halliburton, or build schools in Afghanistan. They do build and maintain roads though.
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