5/25/2012 8:00 PM ET|
The secret $15 billion road tax
Poorly maintained roads are costing drivers plenty in repairs, and it doesn't look as if relief is coming anytime soon.
Gil Giro doesn't need a license plate to tell where a car is from -- he just looks underneath the chassis.
"Every time we see a car that comes in from the district, you can see that its suspension is torn up," said Giro, the owner of Gili's Automotive in Rockville, Md., outside Washington D.C. "It's almost like the vehicle has been driven off-road."
The nation's capital isn't alone in offering motorists teeth-rattling rides as U.S. lawmakers tussle over how to pay the bill for mending battered roads. Mechanics such as Giro say they see the hidden tax car owners pay every day in torn tires, misaligned front ends and bent axles.
Drivers won't get relief any time soon.
The U.S. Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for road and transit projects in Washington and all 50 states, has been bailed out by Congress three times since 2008 for a total of $34.5 billion. The gasoline tax that supports the fund hasn't been raised in 19 years, and, with the cost of materials such as steel and asphalt on the rise, the fund is expected to have a deficit of about $10 billion this year.
Car owners already shell out far more than that to repair damage done to their vehicles by America's ruined streets and highways, industry and academic researchers say.
Motorists pay $67 billion annually for increased fuel consumption, dents, worn tires and premature wear wrought by pitted roads, according to The Road Information Program, a research group. The group's board includes representatives from construction-equipment makers Caterpillar and Deere, as well as Vulcan Materials, a Birmingham, Ala., asphalt and concrete producer.
$324 per driver
That works out to $324 per licensed driver, says Frank Moretti, TRIP's director of policy and research. The figure is an average of all vehicles and can vary widely between cars and large commercial trucks, which are prone to costlier damage, he says.
Karim Chatti, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, estimates that damage linked to poor roads probably runs between $15 billion to $25 billion annually for car owners, not including tire damage and fuel-efficiency costs.
Chatti's lower estimate of $15 billion would cover this year's projected deficit in the highway trust fund; an additional $10 billion would help prevent the nation's highways and arterial roads from slipping further into disrepair.
"It is a true cost to the nation, there's no doubt," says Chatti, who has conducted research for the National Academies on how pavement conditions affect vehicle operating costs. "You start adding them up and you get into the billions."
Justin Nisly, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said in an emailed statement that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has often stated that "America's transportation infrastructure is in desperate need of repair, which is why it is so important that Congress pass a transportation bill."
Washington's lawmakers aren't close to a consensus on a long-term solution for the nation's road network -- or even how to pay for keeping highways from deteriorating further.
The last comprehensive highway policy and funding bill passed in 2005 and ran through 2009. Highway funding has continued since then through nine extensions, the most recent of which is set to expire June 30.
The House has passed a 10th extension that would continue funding through Sept. 30. The Senate has approved a two-year bill that the House hasn't considered.
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I always figured that the Highway Fund had been raided just like the Soc. Sec. fund to pay for various boondoggles and earmarks on legislation. The President has culpability, but the congresses who actually spent the money get most of the blame. More of the blame can be assigned to the voters who put the big spenders in office. Anyone who votes for a candidate of either party who has a record of supporting big pork filled bills and getting earmarks attached to any bill before the floor should be ashamed. I don't care which party is at fault. Any legislator who has contributed to this mess should be tossed out of congress.
Interesting as we've had TWO stimulus' passed by the dems and signed by obama since he took office. One for a $TRILLION and another for about a $Half a TRILLION.
That's in addition to, and way beyond the current spending levels in this category !
Each time, obama stood up at the podium and said they were for 'shovel-ready' INFRASTRUCTURE jobs !!!!
Where's the money? Where's the improvement to thei INFRASTRUCTURE !!
This is just another scam article to convince the weak minded we need MORE TAXES !!!
If a dollar a mile tax was levied on motorist tomorrow in a year the roads would be in the same shape and the money would be used elsewhere, probably to support a war in the Middle East, rebuild some other country or increase benefits to congress. And as far as the taxes not being raised that’s a crock. As the economy has grown over the year so has the total taxes collected.
Our country is so giving. We give it all to foreign countries. But didn't think that we would need it ourselfs. We need to take care of the home country first. Till we tackle this monstrous debt we have accumulated over the last ten years. Like the recent chief of staff said. The greatest threat to the US is the financial problems we have allowed to erode our financial system. The debt is the most serious problem we will face in years to come. It will stifle growth, and hurt our future economic growth. Just like a cancer it will erode our financial system ntil we will be paying half our budget out in interest.
Both candidates for president had better keep this in mind. Because it is a very serious matter.
I certainly won't vote for someone who keeps piling up debt.
The Government has been soaking tax payers for years for hyway repair . They collect the money and spend it on anything but our roads. No use letting this administration have anything to do with infrastructure they will throw it down a rat hole to create more Government jobs and Socialist
takeovers. Right now they are changing our hyways into toll roads and few people have even noticed.
South Florida is full of them. And now they no longer want cash at the toll booths states want passes so they can follow you every minute of our lives. If the price of gas goes down Obama will just tax it more and we sheep will just take it.
we all agree about the bad shape of the roads,.....but if you think a little deeper.....it all make sense .
is another way to force the working people to spend more money into the economy.
the more broken cars...........more business for shop repairs.
and if your car is really in bad shape..........you may go and buy a new one from dealers.
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