Transportation Users Taxes and Fees

In an idealistic planning utopia, I will gladly argue that roadway users generated revenues be only used to finance transportation in the U.S. That is, the Highway Trust Fund should be a 100 percent user-supported fund to benefit ONLY transportation programs. But the reality, based on my review of past Congressional legislation, shows something different. According to my reviews of FHWA web-data, one-half of the revenues derived from the 5 cents per gallon authorized as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 (OBRA 90) went to the General Fund of the Treasury for deficit reduction purposes. By this measure, not all revenues from Federal motor-fuel (and other highway-related Federal excise taxes) has been credited entirely to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).[1] So, there is a history of Congress dipping in the HTF. The reverse is true as well.

In fact, an article by Weiss (2008) in the Washington Post noted an $8 billion cash infusion for the HTF by Congress in 2008 because of revenue shortfalls from lower gas taxes during the Great Recession.  A $19.5 billion reimburse into the HTF for interest payments not received since 1998 was made to ensure its solvency on March 17, 2010.[2] The point here is that; the current state of funding for the HFT does not warrant any form of diffusion from the fund to address social security issues. Instead, based on the points above, I think all increased tax revenues collected from roadway users should go to ensure the long-term solvency of HFT. While using revenues on energy or gasoline to lower social security taxes may seem like a fair option, the economic fundamentals and political structure of U.S. federal policymaking may make it difficult to enact or implement. Based on the current social context of U.S. policymaking, I will argue against any form of “social distribution or reallocation of resources” outside transportation-related policy objectives.

I will argue that any new or additional revenue from users’ taxes and fees should be used for the sole purpose of making mass transit accessible and equitable to address existing issues transportation equity. Including in ensuring better sustainable transit outcomes that will require strong and sustained funding commitments to increase accessibility, build multi-use, interconnected multimodal transportation systems, including shared mobility platforms, integrated bicycle, and pedestrian facilities, and mass transportation (Un-Habitat, 2013; Mallett, 2018.).

In sum, all energy taxes or revenues generated from users taxes should be used only for transportation-related transit, roads and highway expenditures. This is especially true because of the current funding gaps. I believe new streams of revenue will help bolster public transit systems, including biking and pedestrian facilities and reduce current transportation inequities.


Work Cited.

[1] FHWA (2017): Financing Federal-aid Highways. The Highway Trust Fund. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

[2] Dawid, Irvin (April 2, 2010). Highway Trust Fund Bailed Out With $19.5 Billion ‘Reimbursement’. Planetizen. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Mallett (2018). Trends in Public Transportation Ridership: Implications for Federal Policy. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Un-Habitat. (2013). Planning and design for sustainable urban mobility: Global report on human settlements 2013. Routledge.

Weiss, Eric M. (September 6, 2008). “Highway Trust Fund Is Nearly Out of Gas” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2018.