New Weight Tax Suggested To Repair American Roads & Bridges

<p>Columnist Neil Peirce writes on the need to address the road infrastructure crisis illustrated by the I-35W bridge collapse. Rather than boosting the federal gas tax, he advocates a 'Big New Tax' based on 'weight per wheel' of new vehicles.</p>
August 21, 2007, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The indisputable reality is that our national infrastructure, led by decaying roads and bridges, is in perilous shape. Bridges alone tell the story: We have 75,621 of them deemed structurally deficient - potential tragedies waiting to happen."

Pierce believes that "an immediate bridge and road safety repair fund funded by an excise tax on vehicles (leaving the long-battered gas tax in its political doghouse)" is the best way to address the infrastructure crisis."

"My proposal is a new federal excise tax, levied on the purchase of any new vehicle. The tax would be calculated to reflect the precise weight per wheel - the wear and tear - that the new car or truck would place on our roadways....Such a tax should average at least several hundred dollars per vehicle. Arguably, that would be chump change in the prices haggled over each new vehicle. But the revenue would be a sure generator of needed billions for the roadways."

Rather surprisingly, Peirce does not advocate a gas tax increase to address meeting the infrastructure need.

"It was Congress' dreary record on transportation funding that enabled President Bush to dismiss a recently proposed 5-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase. Let the lawmakers ‘examine how they set priorities' first, he said.

Bush then baldly asserted that an increase of a few pennies a gallon might ‘affect economic growth.' But Bush has a solid point about Congress' transportation irresponsibility, including the rapid growth of special ‘earmarks' in recent years. And the fact is Congress could act a lot more responsibly in allocating transportation dollars."

"Britain is showing the way with its recent "Eddington Transport Study" on how transportation decisions can be linked to the most critical concerns - the country's economic competitiveness as well as sustainable development in an era of rising concern about carbon emissions. The Eddington report's big breakthrough was a decision to apply a vigorous cost-benefit ratio analysis to gauge the actual outcomes of any transportation investments that government might make."

Thanks to Albert G. Melcher; MS, APA

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Published on Sunday, August 19, 2007 in Newport News, Va., Daily Press
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