Froggie's Funding Suggestions

(NOTE:  These ideas are a work-in-progress, and so will likely change from time to time.)

Given the problems with congestion and maintenance and poor pavement/bridge conditions on the roads and transit systems in the U.S., I've often been dismayed that we don't spend more on transportation infrastructure (TI).  It's been proven time and time again that adequate funding for TI fuels the engine that drives the economy.  TI funding directly and indirectly contributes to jobs, and adequate maintenance prolongs pavement and bridge life.  With this in mind, the following is a series of proposals I offer to improve transportation nationwide and in the four states I focus on (AL, MN, MS, and VA).

One-time "Shot in the arm"

This proposal is for Congress to provide $60 billion in one-time funding for purposes of transportation, to be administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and it's relevant sub-agencies (FHWA, FTA, etc).  This funding should be IN ADDITION to the normal annual funding provided for the DOT under the 6-year transportation authorization and related bills.  Most of the funding goes to the core areas of transportation in the U.S.:  highways and transit, with some additional funding for aviation, rail, and maritime transportation.  The specific breakdown of the $60 billion is as follows:

Category Amount ($ millions) Notes
Interstate Maintenance (IM) 8,500 These funding authorizations will be administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and will be distributed amongst the states following applicable laws and regulations.
National Highway System (NHS) 10,200
Surface Transportation Program (STP) 12,000
Bridges 7,500
Congestion Management and Air Quality (CMAQ) 3,000
Territories 300 This funding authorization, administered by the FHWA, will be distributed to the U.S. territories for highway/transit purposes:  Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, following applicable laws/regulations.
Transit Capital 10,000 To be administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), as grants for capital purchases and new starts.  Transit operating expenses are not eligible.
Railroads 2,500 To be administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  Can be used for safety upgrades (i.e. RR/road crossings, grade separations, etc), and also as grants to improve multi-modal centers and improve capacity in heavy freight areas.  Such grants will be made to projects that will reduce truck traffic on the highways, with those projects having the most benefit taking priority over those with lower or no traffic benefit.
Airports 4,000 To be administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as grants-in-aid for the nation's airports.
Ports and Waterways 2,000 To be administered by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE), as grants for projects that will improve operations and capacity at the nation's ports and on the nation's navigable waterways.
Total 60,000  

Based on the above funding proposal and FY 2002 apportionment levels, my 4 states of interest would receive the following authorizations.  All amounts are in millions of dollars:

Catgory Alabama Minnesota Mississippi Virginia
Interstate Maintenance (IM) 170.85 154.7 110.5 248.2
National Highway System (NHS) 188.7 184.62 148.92 240.72
Surface Transportation Program (STP) 244.8 237.6 174 319.2
Bridges 153 53.25 105.75 143.25
Congestion Management and Air Quality (CMAQ) 15 31.5 15 59.4

Federal Gas Tax

In addition to the one-time funding I suggest above, I suggest two changes to the Federal Gas Tax structure, each of which could be independent of the other.

My first proposal is for a 5 cent increase in the Federal gas and diesel taxes.  1.14 cents of the increase would be dedicated to transit, so that the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) would receive an even 4 cents a gallon.  The Highway Account of the HTF would receive the remainder of the increase.  Additionally, the 2.5 cents/gallon for gasohol that currently goes to deficit reduction would instead be reallocated to the HTF.  This would allow for an approximate 18% increase in highway spending and 30% increase in transit spending, assuming a 5% reduction in gasoline/diesel sales due to the higher price/tax.

The second proposal is to index the gas tax to inflation, similar to what Wisconsin does with their state gas tax.  This would allow highway/transit revenues to at least keep up with inflation, rather than slowly lower as inflation eats into the buying power of those revenues.

Given the increase in gas prices due to recent events (i.e. oil prices rising), and the Bush administration's resistance to such, raising gas taxes as I propose would be considerably unpopular, if not moreso.  However, I believe the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks.  First off, an increase in gas prices (regardless of how the price increased) has been shown to cause a reduction in vehicle miles driven.  This has the benefit of reducing traffic on the nation's roadways.  Second, the increased revenue from the proposal would allow for more improvements to the transportation system.


Page last modified 28 October, 2004