Transportation Policy

Hey Look! $10 Billion in Highway Money!

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We—the states, the feds, the taxpayers—continue to be Out of Money. Luckily, Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason magazine, has found a way to free up $10 billion, and he has some bright ideas about how to use it efficiently to keep the federal highway system functioning.

From Poole's blog post on the study, "Restoring Trust In the Highway Trust Fund," which was released today:

Our new Reason Foundation study…calls for a new program to revitalize and rebuild the Interstate system for the 21st century, while devolving everything else to the states. With the existing federal fuel tax, plus new freedom to use pricing and toll financing, Interstate 2.0 would address both chronic urban freeway congestion and the productivity of interstate trucking. By refocusing federal priorities on Interstate 2.0, we estimate that about $10 billion more per year could be invested in the modernization effort.

Worried about the federally-funded subways that get you to work, you urban dweller? Poole has that one covered, in an admirably hardheaded style:

Urban transit is clearly a local/regional responsibility, not federal, and should be funded at those levels. But it's almost certain that Congress will continue making grants for this purpose, so our study argues that such funds should no longer be taken from highway users but should instead come from federal general funds, like the government's other community development programs.

Check out the whole study here, available in various levels of pre-digestion for everyone from the transit fanatic to the interested-but-lazy news consumer.

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  1. This is all a plot by the Democrats to implement the Roman Catholic-European socialist idea of subsidiarty!

    1. No, this is all a plot by the Republicans to bring back states’ rights so they can reestablish white supremacy and slavery!

      1. That goes without saying.

  2. I still don’t know why government won’t force technology to advance us to hover cars.

    1. Hover cars? It’s limited thinking like that that’s robbed us of our birthright. . .to flying cars!

      1. I was told that the Volt would be able to fly.

        1. Yes, but only as far as the extension cord reaches.

        2. I heard that the new iphone will fly you to an island.

    2. Don’t worry, I will be submitting a bill later in this year directing the Big Auto-Big Oil conspiracy to quit suppressing cold fission powered hover cars so the Americans are no longer forced by Big Auto to shell out their hard earned cash for foreign oil produced by Big Oil.

      1. Big Oil that leaks. And kills the birdies.

    3. Have you ever read the book Where’s My Jetpack. It explains the relative feasibility of flying cars and jetpacks, but mentions that hoverboards seem deceptively simple but are tecnologically baffling and probably centuries away from development.

  3. Urban transit is clearly a local/regional responsibility, not federal, and should be funded at those levels.

    Are you serious?

    1. Well maybe if you didn’t take so much, I could raise the sales tax to 30% without setting my city on fire.

  4. Moving funding that Congress is going to engage in to general expenditures while ‘freeing up’ $10 billion of transportation trust fund dollars for Highway 2.0 is a wonky way of saying let’s have the federal government spend $10 billion more on transportation.

    NOT one of Bob’s better ideas, IMHO..

  5. Fine. If urban transit systems lose their subsidies, so should roads. ALL of them.

    The feds should immediately require 100% of any of their interstate funding be paid for with fuel taxes. Currently, this is not the case. Interstate spending is around $40 billion, while fuel taxes only bring in around $30 billion (some of which is moved to other forms of transit). The rest comes from general revenues.

    States should be REQUIRED to do the same thing. No general taxes for roads…only fuel taxes and license and registration fees. Parking on public property should never be free, and critically, EVERY DROP OF POLLUTION SHOULD BE CHARGED FOR. Congestion charges should be applied where appropriate as well. There should be noise taxes as well.

    I don’t think road advocates would be so gung-ho about their chosen transportation system if they were paying anywhere near the full costs of their behavior.

    1. There should be noise taxes as well.

      How about a tax on shifting while blogging?

    2. You SEEM to assume THE full cost is higher or will YIELD a less desirable road?

      You also seem TO assume the capital is CURRENTLY being efficiently USED.

      1. Yes,I’d love to see the actual application of ‘transportation’ dollars to roads, bridges and highways, as opposed to the pockets of cronies.

        One reason this ‘draconian’ pay to play allocation will never see the light of day is that there would be far less room for graft and corruption, matched with an actual pressure for efficiency. (as in not adding one more lane to each road every 10 years using a process that takes 10 years to achieve, thereby guaranteeing the transit workers, government and the construction companies a cradle to grave career.)

    3. “Interstate spending is around $40 billion, while fuel taxes only bring in around $30 billion (some of which is moved to other forms of transit).

      This is one of the few times that you are right Chad.

      Of course that will raise the federal gas tax by $.07 per gallon so it hardly as apocalyptic as you imply.

      1. States would need to add another $.20 to cover their costs, CO2-related costs should start around $.30, and other environmental costs are probably of a similar magnitude. Better raise that $.07 to about a dollar. And as we saw a couple years ago, $4/gal gasoline starts changing behaviors in a hurry.

        1. The problem with using the “$4 gas will change behavior” argument is that it didn’t last nearly long enough to do provide any understanding of how the market would adapt. Gas dropped in price too soon and too fast to get an accurate measure of how the population would adapt in the long run.

        2. CO2 related costs are pulled out which ass? Since the whole pricing carbon is pretty sketchy.

          1. $.30 comes from a standard $30/ton CO2 tax, a very typical (and conservative) number crunched out by a number of economic studies.

        3. Sounds about right to me.

          I never had an issue with $4 gas. Actually, I figured gas prices that correctly accounted for external costs would be a couple of dollars higher, but Chad has looked into this more closely than I have.

          Oh yeah, I’d raise the gas taxes enough to cover any middle eastern military expenditures as well.

          1. I am being pretty conservative. I could easily argue for another dollar, but am sticking to well-understood externalities. And of course, NO general funds should be used for roads whatsoever, right? Therefore, state fuel taxes and fees need to cover everything…and right now, they ain’t even close.

            1. The primary arguments you are getting here are regarding the practicality of determining/assigning the costs of air pollution.

              I agree with 90-95% of what you say about road funding.

              I’d be fine if the only thing the federal government had to do with roads was taxing gasoline to pay for middle eastern wars.

              I’d be fine if NO general funds were used for roads whatsoever, but I’d also be quite happy if general funds used for roads were reduced by 90%.

              I, and I’d guess most libertarians are largely in agreement with your positions. I have a few quibbles with your position, but they are just that – quibbles. I’d say that libertarians favor a position that is much closer to yours than the status quo. Yet you choose to haul out the DU-DKOS “libertarian” strawmen.

    4. Fine. If urban transit systems lose their subsidies, so should roads. ALL of them.

      Do you honestly think you will get an argument from anyone here about ending Federal road subsidies?

      At least a year of you posting here and you still haven’t figured that out?

      You truly are a fucking idiot.

      1. Yes, I get an argument from libertarians about this all the time. The problem with libertarians is they define “subsidy” to mean nothing other than direct cash handouts. According to libertarians, however, special tax carve-outs and free public services are NOT subsidies. In this, they are dead wrong.

        1. You’re starting to lose me now.

          “According to libertarians, however, special tax carve-outs and free public services are NOT subsidies.”

          Please give me some links to “libertarians” who say this. Sounds like you are getting your info about libertarians from the deceitful folks at DU and DKOS.

    5. “EVERY DROP OF POLLUTION SHOULD BE CHARGED FOR.”

      Beyond the yelling, charged by whom and monies collected overseen, dispersed, etc. by whom?

      And congestion charges? hahahahahahahahahahahha! Crimey, mate, I just pissed my pants in laughter!

  6. Why don’t we just use that Internet Money, guy?

    1. I know a Nigerian Prince?

  7. I find it difficult to restore trust in the highway trust fund, especially in today’s society where people are trying to help rebuild the economy and think green at the same time. I do not think people want to shift their economic problems to highways, being that what goes on in their homes is more important to them. As for those people who are determined to think green, this highway trust would be a waste to them since they are more likely to ride bikes or take buses. People also will try to carpool anyway possible. This not only is better for the earth and the economy, it is more time efficient and helps people save money. The people who would greatly benefit from this highway trust are truck drivers and people who commute. Less traffic on the freeway is obviously very appealing to the people who use it, but not so much to other people that avoid it at all cost. I believe that to ask people who use these highways to pay more for them in order to have funds to benefit the people who avoid the highway to be a bit hard to approach. People who do not walk, bike or skate to work will not benefit from putting money into sidewalks. Such things as sideways, trails and bike lanes are viewed to be rival non-excludable goods or also known as common resources. Paying for these if you do not use them creates an issue. This problem is that of a forced rider, where a person pays for a good but does not enjoy the benefits. This is highly not desired by people in the community. In our economy people want to save money any way possible, not spend it on something they do not even use.

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