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US Transportation Infrastructure Maintenance Plan

In response to an invitation from the US Chamber of Commerce for a plan to fund the maintenance of US roads, waterways and airports, I submitted the following plan;

In a free market economy such as the US economy, the fairest and most economically efficient method to fund infrastructure maintenance is a user fee paid by the businesses and individuals who use and benefit directly from the infrastructure facilities.  Those who benefit, should pay.

The US Society of Civil Engineers recently conducted a survey of the “catch up” costs to bring US infrastructure up to good condition.  That survey included roads, bridges, inland navigable waterways and airports.

The fairest and most efficient funding source for roads and bridges is to increase the existing federal vehicle fuel tax.  There are road “wear and tear” factors for each type of vehicle based on vehicle weight.  For example, an 18-wheel semi-truck and trailer factor is 9,000 times that of a car, van or SUV and the factor for a bobtail truck is 3,000 times.  The fuel tax on truck diesel and passenger car gasoline should be prorated based on those factors to ensure that freight trucks and passenger cars pay their fair share based on the “wear and tear” they cause.  Trucking companies will pass the fuel tax through to their customers in their freight rate.  The fuel tax would have the additional benefit of providing economic incentives for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The fairest and most efficient funding source for navigable inland waterways is either a ton-mile tax or a marine diesel fuel tax on the vessel operators.  The choice between a “ton-mile” tax or a marine diesel tax should be based on which is easier and more efficient to administer.  The inland vessel operators will pass either tax through to their customers in their freight rates.

Both the road fuel tax and inland waterway tax should be dedicated by Congressional statue to infrastructure maintenance only.  Both user taxes should be based on the US Society of Civil Engineer survey cost for “catch up” maintenance to be completed efficiently.  After that period, both taxes should be reduced to a level required for long term maintenance.

The fairest, most economical funding source for airports is a gate tax on the airlines that use the airports.  The airlines will pass the tax through to their customers in ticket prices.

The US Chamber recently proposed that Congress increase the existing 18.4 cents per gallon fuel tax by another 25 cents.  Perhaps, my plan had some influence with the US Chamber.

Ralph Coker

Bio:  Ralph Coker is a retired petroleum Refinery plant manager.  He writes on business, economic, military and political topics