The price of a gallon of gasoline today is more than $1 less than it was a year or so ago. The state gas tax hasn’t been increased for more than 20 years.
The state highway system is badly in need of a major overhaul. Just to complete the modernization of State Highway 13 between Rifle and Meeker will cost well in excess of $100 million, funds that will never be available under current funding scenarios.
Our great-grandchildren will still be driving over a dangerous highway not reconstructed since the 1940s.
Glenwood Springs will still be plagued with 50,000 vehicles a day over the city street called Grand Avenue. The obvious answer to this dilemma is a substantial increase in the state tax on gasoline, perhaps 25 cents a gallon.
People who drive the roads should pay for the cost of modernization and maintenance. That’s only fair. The increase will hardly be noticeable since even with an added tax, gas will still sell for less.
The federal gas tax, which was initiated in 1956 to provide funds for constructing the Interstate Highway System, should be abolished since that system was essentially finished in 1992, which is 23 years ago.
The current main duty of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is to collect federal fuel taxes and then redistribute that money back to the states using a formula not recognizing each state’s contribution to the Highway Trust Fund. Billions of dollars are spent in that process.
State highway agencies, staffed by competent professionals, no longer need oversight by a federal office. The role of the FHWA was important during the early days of highway development but now should be reduced to research and technical assistance to states.
As the federal gas tax is phased out over a period of, say, five years, states would have the prerogative to raise state taxes to make up for the loss of federal dollars.