This month marks the 24th anniversary of the federal gas tax’s outdated 18.4-cent rate enacted on October 1st, 1993. First established in 1932, the gas tax goes toward the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) – the federal fund that pays for bridges, roads, and transit. The federal gas tax rate has been raised numerous times since its founding, but is nearly a quarter century old and inflation has cut its real value by 40%. Failure to update our federal gas tax has led to inadequate support of the HTF, poor surface transportation infrastructure, and a lack of economic competitiveness.
The U.S. Department of Transportation projects that the cumulative shortfall, under the current 10-year window, in the HTF highway and mass transit accounts will be over $170 billion. We are funding our 2017 transportation infrastructure with 1993 dollars and failure to modernize the federal gas tax has created a mediocre transportation infrastructure.
In the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, our bridges, rail, road, and transit received grades of C+, D, and D- respectively. These subpar grades are a result of our dated federal gas tax and inability to properly fund the HTF and our current transportation infrastructure needs. Continued underinvestment of the HTF will cause our transportation infrastructure to further degrade, . Simply put, we will be unable to compete in the ever-changing, 21st century global marketplace.
ASCE has and will continue to urge Congress to pass legislation increasing our federal gas tax and provide a sustainable, long-term funding solution for surface transportation infrastructure funding.
There’s no need for Congress to wait until the FAST Act is set to expire to deal with this looming issue. Historically the gas tax was increased during tax reform, including by Presidents Reagan and Clinton. As this Congress works on new tax reform legislation it too has the opportunity to #FixTheTrustFund as part of this package.