The Future of Transportation Infrastructure

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If America’s infrastructure is crumbling, we need more than a tax on gas to support the Highway Trust Fund and state departments of transportation. With fuel efficient vehicles making a larger presence on the road and in the showroom, we need to look at new fundraising models to finance transportation projects. Last year in Oregon, we saw discussion of charging EV owners on a per-mile rate since they avoid the federal and state gas taxes. Other states were watching the debate and considering flat annual registration fees to help make up the growing financial shortfall. 

My first reaction to this idea was that along with decreasing subsidies, a mileage fee will not promote or encourage people to by an electric vehicle. Of course there are many transportation alternatives to choose from, but they all require public investment and maintenance financing. Some leaders in the EV community support ideas aimed at ensuring everyone using a road pays for its upkeep, however, any successful legislation should carefully consider pricing strategies. Smart consumers look at the total cost of ownership when purchasing vehicles. With this knowledge, I feel the effects of imposing fair rate fees on EVs would not be detrimental for adoption of new electric models, but the proposed bills as they were written did not pass in 2011.

Automakers are improving efficiency due to the demand of consumers and the force of government. These car companies have big investments and marketing budgets and will push for sales in creative ways. As the national Highway Trust Fund continues to experience deficits of billions of dollars and states battle over financing methods, something will have to change. Ultimately, we need to make smarter decisions about which transportation infrastructure projects are most critical to our future needs and cancel funding of non-essential ones.

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