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More fuel taxes for less congestion

Sept. 25, 2007
Several groups are calling for higher fuel taxes to generate funds for repairing and expanding U.S. roadways to help alleviate rising levels of traffic congestion

Several groups are calling for higher fuel taxes to generate funds for repairing and expanding U.S. roadways to help alleviate rising levels of traffic congestion.

“The overburdened state of the nation's urban roadways has increased so dramatically in the past 25 years that congestion now poses a significant and immediate threat to public welfare and our economy,” said W. F. Marcuson, III, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

“The recently released Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) report shows that Americans are now forced to waste more than 4 billion hours each year sitting in traffic, at an enormous $78 billion cost to our economy – $710 per peak traveler – and an immeasurable cost to our way of life. As a nation, we are failing to maintain even our current substandard conditions,” he said.

Marcuson said a fuel tax increase must be part of the answer, with a 10-cent per gallon increase projected to raise more than $17 billion a year, while costing the average motorist less than $10 a month.

The Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), a business roundtable, is also calling for a 10-cent gas tax increase to boost Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund by $600 million.

“The $600 million is the minimum annual increase needed for the state to be able to begin addressing a more than $40 billion backlog of planned highway, transit, port, and airport projects that are not yet funded for construction,” said Donald Fry, GBC’s president and CEO.

“Between now and 2012, the cost of simple upkeep for all of Maryland’s transportation systems will increase 4.5% annually but, at current levels, revenue for the fund will only increase by only 2.5% a year,” he said. “Every day that we put off starting the capital projects that we need to relieve congestion in Maryland costs us time and money.”

Pete Ruane, president of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), said the congestion situation on all of America’s roadways is only going to get worse, pointing to several statistical projections: the U.S. population is projected to increase 68 million (23%) from today’s 301 million to 369 million in 2032; the number of U.S. motor vehicles will increase more than 50% from 250 million in 2007 to 392 million in 2032; and domestic freight shipments via truck are expected to more than double between 2002 and 2035, increasing from $8.5 to $21.7 trillion, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

“The old adage ‘time is money’ applies here,” said Ruane. “While not quantified by the TTI report, there is no question that traffic congestion increases labor and transportation costs for every American business ... and that is driving up the cost of virtually every product and service we buy as consumers and making U.S. products less competitive in the global marketplace. But reduce traffic gridlock, and you reduce unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, burn less motor fuel and reduce labor and transportation costs for American businesses.”

“Time is working against our infrastructure,” added ASCE’s Marcuson. “We must demand decisive, innovative and meaningful action from our elected officials now, or suffer the safety and economic consequences of inaction,”

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