Recent Reports Highlight Mileage-Based User Fees, Tolling, Other Transportation Issues

I’m about to head to Washington, D.C. for the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting (more on that below). But before I hit the road, I thought I would leave you with a few links to some recent transportation-related reports and articles that might be worthy of your time. I have items on mileage-based user fees, the future of tolling, speed limits, the road building industry forecast for 2013, transit-oriented development and how to communicate the value of preserving infrastructure.

Mileage-Based User Fees

Three reports on mileage-based user fees (or vehicle miles traveled fees, if you prefer) caught my eye this week:

  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office has a new report out that recommends Congress consider testing a vehicle mileage tax on commercial trucks and electric vehicles before applying a VMT fee more broadly.
  • The RAND Corporation has a primer for state and local decision makers called “Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding.” The RAND report concludes that mileage fees would offer a significantly more stable source of surface transportation funding in future decades, and could support additional policy goals as well. The report’s authors outline 15 strategies for reducing the cost of implementing such a system and increasing public support for mileage fees. Among them: conducting trials and educational outreach, including elected officials in trials, enrolling privacy watchdogs, starting with a simple odometer-based system, providing drivers with a choice of technologies (to track mileage), focusing initially on alternative fuel vehicles, and providing a fixed-fee option.
  • A new report from Xerox also looks at Mileage Based User Fees and outlines the company’s interest and expertise in the transportation sector and the debate over how to fund it going forward.

Tolling

  • The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association this week announced an awareness campaign called Moving America Forward to highlight the role tolling could play in helping to solve the nation’s transportation infrastructure crisis. The association’s president, Rob Horr, blogged about the campaign.
  • A new policy paper from the Reason Foundation’s Bob Poole also argues for a greater role for tolling in finding a way to fund infrastructure in a “fiscally constrained environment.”
  • Meanwhile, The Connecticut Mirror reported this week that lawmakers in that state could soon vote to re-establish tolls, thirty years after they were removed. State Rep. Pat Dillon, a Democrat, plans to introduce a bill this legislative session to do exactly that. Gov. Dannel Malloy and state DOT officials are also reportedly interested in examining the possibilities of tolling. Two studies will soon be underway to consider tolls on I-84 West near Hartford and I-95 between New Haven and New York.  

Other Recent Reports and Articles

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue called for an increase in the federal gas tax in his annual State of American Business Address this week.
  • USA Today reported recently on high speed limits being used to attract drivers to new roads like Texas State Highway 130 between Austin and San Antonio and the safety concerns some have.
  • Speaking of Texas, TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said this week that his agency needs an additional $1 billion a year for road maintenance and an additional $3 billion a year to deal with growing congestion on roadways, the Associated Press reported.
  • The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s “U.S. Transportation Construction Market Forecast 2013” says the industry could see modest growth and slight increases in work this year.
  • The National Conference of State Legislatures looked at “Transit-Oriented Development in the States” in a recent report.
  • The Transportation Research Board’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program recently issued a guide that advises state transportation departments on communicating the value of preserving highway infrastructure to various stakeholders.

Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

Speaking of the Transportation Research Board, I’ll be in Washington, D.C. next week for the organization’s annual meeting, a gathering of thousands of transportation professionals from around the world. Among the topics expected to be addressed during the five-day meeting is last summer’s passage of MAP-21, the federal surface transportation authorization bill, and how it’s being implemented. Individual sessions will focus on what MAP-21 means for transportation funding and finance, whether the nation is ready for the legislation’s national performance management goals, and how MAP-21 may help accelerate project delivery and streamline environmental processes. Other expected highlights include sessions on public-private partnerships, intelligent transportation system technologies, and the status of the gas tax and mileage-based user fees. I’ll have a full report on the meeting when I return.