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 United States Highway Trust Fund is getting closer to running out, and the federal government is scrambling to find a way to keep it in the black. The fund pays for a significant portion of the upkeep for the country's interstates, bridge repairs and some public transportation projects. It's currently backed under a two-year law that expires in September, but Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx claims the actual money in the account will be gone by the end of August. Without new financi
Using America's interstate system could get more expensive in some places in the near future. Provisions in the White House-endorsed, $302 billion transportation bill would allow states to get permission from the federal government to impose tolls on them to raise money for infrastructure upkeep. Of course, some states already charge to drive on the interstates – the New Jersey turnpike, for example – but for the most part charges are rare on the federally funded roads.
Prepare for a big political debate about the nation's infrastructure in the coming weeks. The Obama administration has sent a bill covering interstate repair funding for the next four years to Congress. While that might seem somewhat benign, the proposal is likely to prove contentious because it would be partially financed by ending some tax breaks to businesses. This likely won't go over well in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.