From the Miller Center, Well Within Reach, America’s New Transportation Agenda:
[S]ome 4 million miles of roads, 600,000 highway bridges, 117,000 miles of rail, 11,000 miles of transit lines, 19,000 airports, 300 ports, and 26,000 miles of commercially navigable waterways connect the country’s diverse and far-flung regions to each other and to an increasingly fluid and interdependent global marketplace.
But we aren’t funding transportation adequately.
This shortsightedness and underinvestment—at the planning level and on our nation’s roads, rails, airports and waterways—costs the country dearly. It compromises our productivity and ability to compete internationally; transportation users pay for the system’s inefficiencies in lost time, money and safety. Rural areas are cut off from economic opportunities and even urbanites suffer from inadequate public transportation options. Meanwhile, transportation-related pollution exacts a heavy toll on our environment and public health.
The Miller Center estimates that to bring road and other infrastructure maintenance (more for cars and trucks than for airplanes and trains) will cost $134 – $194 billion per year for more than 25 years to maintain highways, train and air transportation, and up to $264 billion/year to improve. This comes to the equivalent of $1-2/gallon of gasoline for the roads and bridges portion (though some or much of this money should come from weight and miles charges). The increases would be even greater if we shift some of the current funding methods so that vehicle use pays all the costs of infrastructure (currently, even the federal highway system is only 70% funded through gasoline tax, user fees, etc.
A $100/metric tonne cost for greenhouse gas emissions will add $0.90/gallon, and costs for greenhouse gas mitigation rise precipitously with failure to pay the costs today.
While a number of countries use taxes from gasoline for the general fund, much of it does go to paying for infrastructure. Here are a few examples of per gallon costs for gasoline elsewhere:
• UK $8.06
• Germany $8.37
• France $8.63
• Norway $9.84 (better to save the gasoline for export)
A number of countries have very high taxes on cars (in Denmark, registration plus VAT exceeds 200%).
We currently allow many to drive even when many know they are not good drivers, perhaps because they too often drive while under the influence, on the cell phone (it doesn’t matter what kind), distracted, angry, or tired. Per capita costs of US crashes are >$800. Congestion adds additional costs. There would perhaps be more money available for other needs if we begin with an assumption that I, and those I know, will not drive most our lives from age 16 to 106. Americans prize independence, and will find such a discussion a challenge. Yet our population is aging, and some would welcome a discussion of ways to lay down the burden of driving; others of all ages might prefer less social pressure to drive.