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.
"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