SPECIAL REPORT 285

The Fuel Tax
AND ALTERNATIVES FOR TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

Committee for the Study of the Long-Term Viability of Fuel Taxes for Transportation Finance

TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH BOARD OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Transportation Research Board

Washington, D.C.

2006

www.TRB.org



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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 SPECIAL REPORT 285 The Fuel Tax AND ALTERNATIVES FOR TRANSPORTATION FUNDING Committee for the Study of the Long-Term Viability of Fuel Taxes for Transportation Finance TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH BOARD OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Transportation Research Board Washington, D.C. 2006 www.TRB.org

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 Transportation Research Board Special Report 285 Subscriber Category IA planning and administration Transportation Research Board publications are available by ordering individual publications directly from the TRB Business Office, through the Internet at www.TRB.org or national-academies.org/trb, or by annual subscription through organizational or individual affiliation with TRB. Affiliates and library subscribers are eligible for substantial discounts. For further information, contact the Transportation Research Board Business Office, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (telephone 202-334-3213; fax ; or e-mail TRBsales@nas.edu). Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to the procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This study was sponsored by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Transportation Research Board. Cover and design by Tony Olivis, Studio 2. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data National Research Council (U.S.). Committee for the Study of the Long-Term Viability of Fuel Taxes for Transportation Finance. The fuel tax and alternatives for transportation funding / Committee for the Study of the Long-Term Viability of Fuel Taxes for Transportation Finance, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. p. cm. ISBN 0-309-09419-4 1. Transportation—United States—Finance. 2. Motor fuels—Taxation—United States. 3. User charges—United States. 4. Infrastructure (Economics)—United States— Finance. 5. Transportation and state—United States—Evaluation. I. Title. HE206.2.N39 2006 336.2′7866538270913—dc22 2006040428

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciencesis a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. On the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineeringwas established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicinewas established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, on its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Councilwas organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both the Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. William A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. The Transportation Research Boardis a division of the National Research Council, which serves the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. The Board’s mission is to promote innovation and progress in transportation through research. In an objective and interdisciplinary setting, the Board facilitates the sharing of information on transportation practice and policy by researchers and practitioners; stimulates research and offers research management services that promote technical excellence; provides expert advice on transportation policy and programs; and disseminates research results broadly and encourages their implementation. The Board’s varied activities annually engage more than 5,000 engineers, scientists, and other transportation researchers and practitioners from the public and private sectors and academia, all of whom contribute their expertise in the public interest. The program is supported by state transportation departments, federal agencies including the component administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other organizations and individuals interested in the development of transportation. www.TRB.org www.national-academies.org

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 Committee for the Study of the Long-Term Viabilityof Fuel Taxes for Transportation Finance Rudolph G. Penner, Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., Chair Carol Dahl, Colorado School of Mines, Golden Martha Derthick, Charlottesville, Virginia David J. Forkenbrock, University of Iowa, Iowa City David A. Galt, Montana Petroleum Association Shama Gamkhar, University of Texas, Austin Thomas D. Larson, Lemont, Pennsylvania Therese J. McGuire, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois Debra L. Miller, Kansas Department of Transportation Michael Pagano, University of Illinois, Chicago Robert W. Poole, Jr., Reason Foundation, Los Angeles, California Daniel Sperling, University of California, Davis James T. Taylor II, Bear, Stearns & Co., Inc., New York Martin Wachs, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California Transportation Research Board Staff Joseph R. Morris, Study Director

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 Preface The Transportation Research Board (TRB) formed the Committee for the Study of the Long-Term Viability of Fuel Taxes for Transportation Finance to respond to concerns that present funding arrangements, especially fuel taxes, may become less reliable revenue sources for transportation programs in the future. At the same time, transportation agencies are interested in developments in toll collection technology and in public–private road projects that suggest opportunities to try fundamentally new approaches to paying for transportation facilities. The goals of the study were to assess what recent trends imply for the future of traditional transportation finance, identify finance alternatives and the criteria by which they should be evaluated, and suggest ways in which barriers to acceptance of new approaches might be overcome. The study was sponsored by the state transportation departments through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, the Federal Highway Administration, and TRB. The committee’s conclusions address the viability of present revenue sources, the merits of present transportation finance arrangements, and the potential value of various reform options. The recommendations propose immediate changes to strengthen the existing highway and transit finance system and actions to prepare the way for more fundamental reform in the long term. Because the impetus for the study was concern for the continued reliability of the revenues derived from the special fees and taxes paid by highway users, most of this report is devoted to questions about future tax revenue, alternative forms of highway user charges, how these charges affect highway system performance, and related aspects of highway finance. Problems relating to finance of public transit were not considered as comprehensively. An important feature of present transportation finance arrangements is the dedication of portions of highway user revenues to transit. The committee considered transit funding primarily insofar as it is linked in this way to highway user fee revenue. The committee received briefings at its meetings from federal, state, and local government transportation administrators and from experts in various aspects of transportation finance. The committee thanks Tyler Duvall, Patrick

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 DeCorla-Souza, Michael Freitas, and James March of the U.S. Department of Transportation; Elizabeth Paris of the staff of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee; Charles Stoll of the California Department of Transportation; James Whitty of the Oregon Department of Transportation; Ellen Burton of the Orange County Transportation Authority; Brian Mayhew of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Marlon Boarnet of the University of California at Irvine; Helen Sramek of AAA; Darrin Roth of the American Trucking Associations; Greg Hulsizer of California Transportation Ventures, Inc.; Arlee Reno and Gary Maring of Cambridge Systematics; Dawn Levy of Cassidy & Associates; Arthur Guzzetti of the American Public Transportation Association; Jeffrey Parker; Alan Pisarski; and Arthur Bauer. The committee also thanks Paul Sorensen and Brian Taylor of the University of California at Los Angeles, authors of a resource paper prepared for the committee on road use metering systems. The executive summary of that paper is included as Appendix C of this report. The contents of the resource paper are the responsibility of the authors. The report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that assist the authors and NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. The committee thanks the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: David L. Greene, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knoxville, Tennessee; Karen J. Hedlund, Nossaman, Guthner, Knox, & Elliott LLP, Arlington, Virginia; Herbert S. Levinson, Herbert S. Levinson Transportation Consultant, New Haven, Connecticut; David Luberoff, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Jeff Morales, Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas, Inc., Sacramento, California; Ian W.H. Parry, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.; Arlee T. Reno, Cambridge Systematics, Inc., Chevy Chase, Maryland; and Paul P. Skoutelas, PB Consult, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the committee’s conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by John S. Chipman, University of Minnesota, and C. Michael Walton, University of Texas at Austin. Appointed by NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of the report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 Joseph R. Morris managed the study and drafted the final report under the guidance of the committee and the supervision of Stephen R. Godwin, Director of Studies and Information Services. Suzanne Schneider, Associate Executive Director of TRB, managed the report review process. Special appreciation is expressed to Norman Solomon, who edited the report; Jennifer Weeks, who prepared the prepublication copy; and Juanita Green, who managed the book design and production, all under the supervision of Javy Awan, Director of Publications. Frances Holland assisted with meeting arrangements and communications with committee members.

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 Contents     Summary   1 1   Introduction   9      Study Origin: Transportation Finance Problems   11      Charge to the Committee   15      Guidelines for Finance Arrangements   18      Outline of the Report   21 2   Present Finance Arrangements   23      Highway Finance   23      Transit Finance   33      Comparisons with Other Infrastructure and International Practices   36      Trends in the Evolution of the Finance System   40 3   Evaluating the Present Finance System   62      Criteria for Evaluating Funding Sources   64      Highway System Performance   68      Transit Performance   81      Evaluation of Finance Program Features   83 4   Effects of Automotive Technology, Energy, and Regulatory Developments on Finance   95      Supply, Price, and Consumption of Petroleum Fuels   96      Motor Vehicle Technology Projections and Fuel Tax Revenue   102      Possible Regulatory Developments   112 5   Finance Reform Proposals: Toll Road Expansion and Road Use Metering   121      Toll Roads and Toll Lanes   124      Road Use Metering and Mileage Charging   137      Summary   154

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The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding: Special Report 285 6   Finance Reform Proposals: Reforms Within the Present Framework   158      Measures to Increase Available Resources   159      Measures to Improve Pricing   164      Measures to Direct Spending More Effectively   168      Summary   176 7   Conclusions and Recommendations   179      Conclusions   179      Recommendations   192     Appendices     A   Highway Benefits Estimates   202 B   Automotive Technology Projections   209 C   Review and Synthesis of Road Use Metering and Charging Systems: Executive Summary   217     Study Committee Biographical Information   232