New survey says majority of Americans support usage fees to fix crumbling roads

Updated May 10, 2016

TrafficjamA newly published survey reports that nearly two-thirds of Americans would support roadway user fees to help fix the country’s crumbling transportation infrastructure, according to a report in Reuters.

One of the options was to pay for the number of miles a vehicle travels, according to the survey of 1,002 Americans more than 18 years old that was conducted by Kelton Global for HNTB Corp. between March 14 and 22 by e-mail invitation. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

The country’s roads, bridges and other surface transportation infrastructure are in desperate need of repair, but fuel taxes that have paid for maintenance in the past are shrinking due to more fuel-efficient vehicles, changes in driving habits, and state and federal gasoline tax rates that were last raised in 1993 to 18.4 cents per gallon.

The cost to repair and upgrade the surface transportation system is in the “hundreds of billions of dollars,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office said last year, according to the news agency. A U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report in February said that the federal Highway Trust Fund has needed approximately $143 billion since 2008 to maintain a positive balance.

“More and more people realize that road-usage fees options, such as vehicle miles traveled or price managed lanes, are needed to fill the gaps,” Matthew Click, HNTB national director of managed lanes, said in a statement to the news agency.

However, the CBO report also notes that charging drivers to use roads has raised privacy concerns, depending on the method used to track mileage, and the approach may place a burden on low-income households and cause resentment from drivers who believe their taxes have already paid for roads, according to Reuters.

The state of Oregon launched a voluntary program last year to charge 1.5 cents per mile driven, and that California plans to begin testing a similar pilot program this year.