NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

BRIDGE COLLAPSE COULD FUEL HIGHER GAS TAXES

August 9, 2007

The Minneapolis bridge disaster that suddenly symbolizes the nation's crumbling infrastructure could tip the scales in favor of higher gasoline taxes for needed repairs coast to coast, says the Associated Press.

Consider:

  • One-quarter of the nation's bridges, including the one in Minneapolis, have been classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
  • One-third of major roads are judged by federal transportation officials to be poor or mediocre.
  • The cost of the backlog of needed repairs to roads and bridges is now $461 billion.
  • Road conditions are a factor in one-third of the 40,000 traffic fatalities every year; traffic congestion costs drivers $63 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Mississippi River disaster was a direct result of federal underspending.  But there is wide agreement that the bridge is symptomatic of a national problem that may require increased taxes to solve.

Others disagree, saying tax increases are not the only option. For example, we could:

  • Build more toll roads and encourage more private-public road projects.
  • Sanction more state and local construction bonds and tax drivers according to miles driven rather than fuel purchased.

Further, The Bush administration says the real problem is Congress not showing enough fiscal discipline, citing thousands of special projects, or earmarks, in highway bills that don't reflect the real priorities. The best known among them was one that Young supported: $223 million for the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska, which was killed when the public rebelled.

Source: Jim Abrams, "Will bridge collapse fuel drive for higher gas tax?" Memphis Commercial Appeal, August 8, 2007.

 

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