Study: roads don’t “pay for themselves”

Good morning, readers.

An interesting study titled “Do Roads Pay for Themselves? Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding” is out this week from the Iowa Public Interest Research Group. Click here for the full report.

Highway advocates often claim that roads “pay for themselves,” with gasoline taxes and other charges to motorists covering — or nearly covering — the full cost of highway construction and maintenance.

They are wrong.

Highways do not — and, except for brief periods in out nation’s history — never have paid for themselves through the taxes that highway advocates label “user fees.” Yet highway advocates continue to suggest they do in an attempt to secure preferential access to scare public resources and to shape how those recourses are spent.

To have a meaningful national debate over transportation policy — particularly at a time of tight public budgets — it is important to get past the myths and address the real, difficult choices America must make for the 21st Century.

So begins the Executive Summary of the 40-page study, which recommends that America weigh the full costs and benefits of transportation investments and allocate the costs of those investments fairly across society.

The study was released at an important time in the public debate in Iowa and Washington D.C. over how best to spent transportation dollars. In Iowa, there has been much debate about whether the state should pay to help operate passenger rail between Chicago and Iowa City. More locally, there continues to be debate over whether the state should pay to help run the D-Line Downtown Shuttle.

The study was first reported this morning by the Des Moines Business Record. Click here for the story.