By Kevin Frazzini
In the last decade, the challenge of funding transportation projects hasn’t exactly left lawmakers dancing in the streets.
States face three major hurdles in their hunt for transportation resources, according to NCSL policy analysts:
Vehicle fuel-economy standards are continuing to rise; Americans’ travel habits are changing, with baby boomers driving less and more people telecommuting, car-sharing and bicycling, among other options; and, even though Congress finally passed long-term transportation funding, the federal share of transportation money is steadily declining.
Lawmakers discussed what’s working and what isn’t, along with options their states are considering, during the session “Gearing Up: Transportation Funding for the Future,” at NCSL’s annual Legislative Summit on Tuesday.
Attendees used a polling application on their smartphones to answer several questions on transportation funding. Their responses were translated into bar charts projected in real time on a large screen at the front of the room. Everyone could see, in percentages that fluctuated as responses came in, how their colleagues answered, giving the session a lively, interactive feel.
What, for example, did attendees believe was the biggest hurdle to increasing transportation funding in their state? Within moments, 70 percent replied that it was resistance to tax increases.
A few other highlights:
● 70 percent said their state constitutions protect transportation revenue so that it can be used only for transportation projects.
● In a tie of opposing strategies, 33 percent said their states currently charge an indexed fuel tax—and 33 percent said that option was off the table.
● 35 percent said tolling was the strategy other than a fuel tax they were most likely to focus on for the future.
● 40 percent said the possibility of increasing hardship on rural residents was the biggest obstacle to moving forward with road-use charges—fees assessed based on the number of miles driven.
● And, finally, 80 percent said federal transportation funding was “absolutely critical.”
For more information, visit NCSL’s Deep Dive page on transportation funding.
Kevin Frazzini is the assistant editor of State Legislatures magazine.