- Fed up with worsening congestion on highways and roads, more than 70% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes and tolls to support infrastructure maintenance or new construction, according to a new survey released by HNTB Corporation, a civil engineering consulting firm.
- The survey found that 61% of respondents think congestion is worse than it was a year ago, and just 2% think congestion has gotten better since last year.
- While 73% of respondents supported higher taxes or fees to pay for infrastructure, that support rose to 82% if the proceeds were guaranteed by law to be used only for infrastructure. Of those backing higher fees, 46% said they preferred that only users of the affected road, bridge or tunnel pay a higher fee, while 27% said that taxes on everyone should be the funding source.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey found that the average commute rose from 26.6 minutes in 2016 to 26.9 minutes last year, a total increase of 2.5 hours a year. That fits with an Inrix study from this spring that also found that the average U.S. driver spends 41 hours a year stuck in traffic. It’s a phenomenon that means more repair costs, environmental harm and aggravated drivers, so it’s no wonder there’s interest in solving it — even if it requires spending a bit more.
On the federal level, any attempts to raise the gas tax or find alternate streams for infrastructure funding have pretty much stalled (despite big-budget proposals like President Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, backed by $200 billion in federal spending). But the states have shown that higher infrastructure taxes and fees actually can be popular.
Since 2013, 27 states have raised or reformed gas taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, and Missouri voters will vote on a proposal to raise their gas tax 10 cents a gallon over four years in next month’s election. Many other states have passed bond measures, sales tax increases or other funding increases for infrastructure (Colorado will vote on a measure to increase the state’s sales tax to pay for transportation improvements).
“Americans place a high value on mobility and recognize the need to fund their share of the costs through higher taxes or tolls to help reduce congestion,” Kevin Hoeflich, HNTB toll services chairman and senior vice president, said in a statement.
The survey also examined interest in tolling specific lanes as express lanes, and found that 64% of respondents believe they could be a solution to reduce highway congestion. Some cities and states have pushed for more congestion pricing or dynamic tolling — like new tolling in Northern Virginia — as another possible solution to encourage drivers to reduce their burden on roads.