Friday, January 18, 2008

Commission Reports $225B Needed for Federal Highways

The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, created by Congress in 2005 under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), released its final report on Tuesday. The report suggests an annual investment of at least $225 billion for the next 50 years to upgrade to an advanced surface transportation system.

The bipartisan Commission's 12 members representing federal/state/local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, transportation-related industries, and associations has been tasked to examine not only the current condition and future needs of the nation's surface transportation system, but also to consider short and long-term alternatives to replace or supplement fuel tax as the principal revenue source for highway improvements.

At the heart of the Commission's recommendations is a plan to replace more than 100 current programs with 10 outcome-based initiatives with oversight from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Commission also recommends an array of new revenue sources, including:
  • An increase in the federal gas tax by 5-8 cents per gallon per year for a five-year period (25-40 cents total);
  • A vehicle miles traveled fee;
  • New tolls;
  • Peak-hour "congestion pricing" on federal-aid highways in major metropolitan areas;
  • A new freight fee for freight projects; and
  • Ticket taxes for passenger rail improvements.