ATA think tank says taxes, not tolls

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the research arm of the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), has concluded that boosting federal motor fuel taxes is preferable to tolling and privatization to ensure highways are maintained and expanded.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the research arm of the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), has concluded that boosting federal motor fuel taxes is preferable to tolling and privatization to ensure highways are maintained and expanded.

ATRI reported that collecting highway revenue from fuel taxes is more efficient than from tolls. Collection fees comprise up to 3% of fuel tax revenue, whereas they can comprise more than 21% of toll revenue, ATRI said.

“Every state legislator needs to understand that tolling is not an efficient way to improve transportation,” said George Billows, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Assn.

The study warns that relying on privatization of corridors could lead to inconsistent road quality among heavily traveled truck routes because rural corridors would lack the population density needed to attract profit-driven private investors who rely on tolls.

ATRI also recommends that state and federal fuel tax exemptions be eliminated to produce at least $907 million in additional highway revenue. ATRI noted that entities that enjoy these exemptions include school buses, federal fleets, and the U.S. Postal Service.

ATRI proposes increasing the fuel tax and eliminating fuel tax exemptions, which would produce between $10 and $38 billion in annual revenue for highway infrastructure. This revenue scheme would support a seamless transportation network and ensure funding for rural corridors, ATRI said. A privatization and tolling scheme is both inefficient and directs funding disproportionately to metropolitan routes, ATRI said.

Based on 2004 fuel consumption, “a 20-cent per gallon tax increase on both gasoline and diesel fuel would create additional Highway Trust Fund revenues of $35.1 billion in one year,” ATRI stated. “These user funds would be collected in an efficient and equitable manner at little to no additional cost since the existing fuel tax administration infrastructure would be utilized.”

The executive summary of the ATRI report can be read at http://www.atri-online.org/research/results/economicanalysis/index.htm

To comment on this article, write to Terrence Nguyen at [email protected]

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