This week, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report entitled, “A Policymaker’s Guide to Road User Charges.” The report calls on Congress to develop and pass legislation directing the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) to establish a national Mileage-Based User Fee system (MBUF) , or a “Road User Charge” (RUC). The RUC would be introduced through a transition period and utilize Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. The system would be mandatory for both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks in states that choose to opt into the program. According to this report, the RUC would become the new revenue mechanism for the Federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF)
The full report addresses passenger privacy, rural driver impacts, environmental impacts, an implementation period, and administrative costs, among other issues. Specifically, ITIF concludes that an RUC system would:
- Provide more privacy-protective measures than tolling systems, given that charges are the only information passed onto governments;
- Offer relief to rural and low-income drivers and households in communities that don’t have a large presence of fuel-efficient vehicles;
- Reduce carbon emissions due to a potential decrease in driving mileage;
- Include a transition period of at least three to five years to allow automakers to develop a standard for the RUC technology; and
- Utilize current and developing vehicle technology to reduce administrative costs.
Our nation’s infrastructure received an overall grade of “D+” in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, with bridges, roads, and transit receiving grades of “C+,” “D,” and “D-” respectively. These subpar grades are a result of long-term underinvestment in surface transportation infrastructure. Despite increased investments by 27 states over the last six years, continued underinvestment will cause our transportation infrastructure to further degrade. We must fix the HTF to sufficiently invest in America’s deteriorating infrastructure. Proper investment will not only improve our nation’s economy, but will also improve business productivity, GDP, employment, personal income, international competitiveness, and public safety.
As Congress begins to debate the next surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge Congress to take these immediate steps to fix the HTF:
- Fix the HTF by adding 25 cents to the federal motor fuels tax. The current user fee must be raised and tied to inflation to restore its purchasing power. This idea has been led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and would provide a much-needed infusion of $394 billion over 10 years and combat the $1.1 trillion investment gap of surface transportation capital needs.
- Establish a broad pilot program to better understand how a Mileage-Based User Fee (MBUF) could be implemented.
- Introduce a tax on electric vehicles that would account for their presence on our nation’s roads.
Ultimately, ASCE asserts that our nation must prioritize the investment needs of our surface transportation infrastructure system, which is critical to our nation’s public safety, national security, and economic competitiveness. Fixing the HTF and introducing other strategic, robust, and sustained investments, must be done quickly if we hope to close the growing funding gap and restore America’s world-class infrastructure.
As legislative activity heats up this spring in Congress, ASCE’s government relations team will continue to stay activity engaged and ensure we fix the HTF!