Some highway stuff
1. I didn't realize that technically, the 60th anniversary of the US Interstate Highway System is this week.
A road advocacy group, TRIP, has released a report opining about future needs, The Interstate Highway System Turns 60: Challenges to Its Ability to Continue to Save Lives, Time and Money. From the press release:
The TRIP report ... finds that while the Interstate Highway System represents only 2.5 percent of lane miles in the U.S., it carries 25 percent of the nation’s vehicle travel. The system is increasingly congested, with truck travel growing at a rate twice that of overall Interstate travel. And, while the nation’s Interstates tend to be in better condition than other roads and bridges, the aging system lacks the required funding for needed improvements and repairs.
2. Something else I didn't know is that Pennsylvania has the highest state gasoline excise tax. Technically, it's not an excise tax on gasoline, but a set of various taxes that add up to the equivalent.
According to the Harrisburg Patriot-News "Get ready for another gas tax increase," the tax is rising to fund Act 89, an infrastructure bill passed a few years ago, which is providing a wide range of funding for road, bridge, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects (although the bike funding is middling, equivalent to less than a rounding error, "Non gasoline-tax initiatives to fund transportation projects"). From the article:
But it's unfair to compare Pennsylvania's gas tax with other states, Kirkpatrick said, since other states have various means of paying for roads and bridges instead of relying mainly on gas taxes and motor license fees.I do think the point about the size of the state's mobility (road) network relative to other states is an interesting point. Similarly, the road and transit networks are old too, which means that they cost more to maintain.
Some charge sales tax, and some have vehicle registration fees in the hundreds of dollars, Kirkpatrick said.
And Pennsylvania's road system is larger than many states. It is equal to that of New England, New Jersey and New York combined, he said.
"It is a user fee in essence. If you are driving and buying gas, you are being charged a user fee to keep the roads in good shape," Kirkpatrick said.
Without the additional revenue, we would face deteriorated highways and bridges, more vehicle repairs, and weight restrictions or closures on roads and bridges, Kirkpatrick said.
The state's Act 89 web site shows 9,557 projects totaling about $32 billion are planned or completed over the next 12 years, provided funding is available.
3. However, because the same funding pool is used to fund the Pennsylvania State Police, unless things change, eventually all of the increased funding for transportation infrastructure improvements will be instead directed to the police ("What's eating up a growing share of transportation funds? It's not road and bridge work").
4. Plus, Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls continue to rise ("Travel on Pa. Turnpike in 2017 will take a bigger toll on your wallet") because the Legislature passed a law requiring the Turnpike Authority to make annual payments to the State of $450 million, which is used to fund transit.
But a lawsuit in New York State, where New York State Turnpike tolls are used to fund the state's canal system, found that it was unreasonable to fund the canal system in this way. It's possible that a lawsuit in Pennsylvania could find the diversion of toll monies to transit is illegal also. (Note that tolls on the Dulles Toll Road in Northern Virginia are used to fund the construction of the Silver Line Metrorail line.)