A Proposal To End The Highway Trust Fund

Gabriel Roth, a civil engineer, transportation economist and research fellow is fed up with the federal government's inability to fully fund transportation and suggests that its time to hand off responsibility to the states.
January 3, 2012, 6am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Roth, writing for The Independent Institute in Oakland, CA, observes that neither of the two congressional bills to reauthorize the transportation funding bill are fully funded by fuel tax revenues and will need subsidy by the U.S. general fund (or some non-user fund source). He is frustrated by what he terms the "new (funding) principle (that) has brought the United States to the brink of insolvency: Spend what you want and if the usual funding sources aren't sufficient - in this case the fuel taxes that replenish the trust fund - dip into general revenues to make up the difference."

"(T)here is a solution to the funding dilemma: Congress could get out of transportation financing altogether, wind down the Highway Trust Fund and leave highway financing and decision-making to states, local authorities and private entities."

Roth supports his solution with three reasons, including relieving Congress of doing what appears to be politically impossible but completely necessary: raising fuel taxes. However, Roth shows himself to be no friend of transit.

"Under this arrangement, transit users and providers would lose their federal subsidies. Mass transit, which comprises less than 2 percent of U.S. urban travel-miles, currently receives 20 percent of federal surface transportation funding. But transit projects should be funded locally, not by Washington. Why should farmers in Ohio finance mass transit services in Chicago?"

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Published on Thursday, December 29, 2011 in Winona Daily News
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