National Center for Sustainable Transportation
Niemeier, Debbie A. (2015) NCST White Paper: A Funding Compromise Can Set Transportation on Path Toward Sustainability. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-15-35
President Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned building a debt-free Interstate Highway System that would provide infrastructure to support the national interests. In recent years, federal transportation funding has both incurred substantial debt and expanded its reach far beyond supporting infrastructure of national significance.
Against the backdrop of continuing uncertainty around Congressional passage of a new federal transportation bill, a number of proposals have been circulated in the past year to address aspects of securing or reforming state and federal transportation funding. This white paper assembles the most prominent of these proposals and reviews them in the context of sustainable transportation, in particular, these three dimensions: funding sustainability, environmental sustainability, and social justice.
The result of this review is a set of funding recommendations that borrow individual features from many of the publicly disseminated proposals. The combination represents a compromise across the political spectrum, and will help to create a sustainable federal transportation funding system.
The funding recommendations include a one-time use of corporate taxes to allow states to reduce the backlog of maintenance needs. The federal gas tax would be continued and indexed to inflation. Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets would be set for each state and states would be allowed to ‘buy down’ their gas tax as they reduce their GHG emissions. States would be given pricing and tolling authority and have the authority to implement a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax. States would also assume responsibility for all roads. Taken together, these strategies would set transportation on the path toward sustainability.