Congestion … funding … congestion … funding

Debate in the US has focussed on the need to find considerable additional funding to meet the needs for a congested transport system.

The National Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission, set up by the Federal Government,  published their report Transportation for Tomorrow on 15 January 2008.

Interestingly the Commission of 12 ended up with three different views: the report, supplementary views and a minority report. So it appears that there is no easy, clear answer, even fora Commission specially set to answer the questions raised.

On the one hand, the Commission wants to retain a strong federal role in transportation and maintain the federal fuel tax as the principal mechanism for financing future infrastructure investments. At the same time, suggesting a performance-based approach and reforms to accelerate project delivery, consolidation of transportation user fees in and a radical overhaul of the federal program structure.

There is no agreement on the extent of the investment required among the Commissioners – at the upper end estimates that the nation will need to invest at least $225 billion annually over the next 50 years to upgrade the existing surface transportation systems (highways, transit and passenger rail) to a state of good repair (triple current funding).

Revenue sourses range from increasing the gas tax from 25 to 40 cents per gallon over five tears then indexed to inflation. In addition extending the user fee principle to other modes, notably a “federal ticket tax” on transit trips and intercity rail passenger trips and dedicated funding for freight-related improvements, possibly in the form of a share of customs duties and a “freight fee” such as a container charge.

The Chair (also Federal Secretary for Transportation) and two other Commissioners had a contrary view that the Federal role should be reduced.


Every effort should be made to facilitate the application of tolling and congestion pricing to the transportation system so as to attain the greatest efficiency from the system. Thanks to technology development and the leadership of a number of State and local officials, the move toward direct pricing is underway at the State and local level. … In fact, when contrasted to the highly regressive nature of higher fuel taxes and congestion itself, direct pricing is likely to be a far more fair system.

The report can be viewed at

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