How much money would be needed to repair and upgrade the crumbling roads and dilapidated bridges of the U.S. transportation system?

The last time the federal gas tax was increased, to the current 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel, was in 1993, during former President Bill Clinton’s first term.

Times have changed, and Americans are buying less fuel. Meanwhile, the dollar buys less road construction and bridge repair than it did 22 years ago.

For groups advocating a hike to the federal gas tax, how much is enough to fund the Highway Trust Fund and pay for a long-term highway bill?

“There are a couple of options,” said Darrin Roth, vice president of highway policy for the American Trucking Association.

To keep the program going at the current funding levels, Roth said the federal gas tax would need a 10- to 12-cent per gallon increase.

“In order to continue current funding levels, you would need to raise about $16 billion per year over the next decade, over and above what’s currently coming in,” he said.

In order to take on all of the repairs, upgrades and work that the U.S. transportation infrastructure needs to stay competitive in the global market, the hike would have to be substantial.

“To deal with all the problems, all of the infrastructure problems we have, estimates are that you would have to almost double the current investment. You’re looking at 30 cents per gallon increase to truly being able to address all of the infrastructure needs. Reality is that is unlikely that will happen. There is a proposal to increase it by 15 cents, which would bring us back to the pre-2008 situation, where the fund was paid for our of highway user fees plus a small bump up in federal investment. That’s a start,” Roth said.

He said the current practice of infusions of cash from the general fund means that states can’t undertake needed upgrades and major repairs.

“They are now relegated to doing a maintenance program, patching the potholes and making sure the bridges are safe. They can’t do the big-capacity expansion projects that are needed to insure our system is up to par,” he said.

And as the U.S. transportation infrastructure falls further behind, so-called “developing” nations gain in the infrastructure race.

“According to World Bank, we are now ranked 28th in the world in terms of logistics efficiency,” Roth said.

source: Jeannine Otto, Field Editor | AgriNews