American families pay thousands of dollars a year for critical services such as electricity, water and broadband, but an analysis of available data by HNTB Corporation shows that they pay less than $300 for the transportation network.
On average, American drivers pay just $274.69 annually in gas taxes (federal + state taxes) at the pump, the primary source of funding for the upkeep and improvement of U.S. roads and bridges.
Compared to other critical public services, the cost for their transportation systems lags far behind.
Forbes reported that average family’s annual internet bill is $794.04 and Statista reported that a family of four paid an average of $844 for water and about $1,200 for cell phones.
“Think of it this way: the bills we pay monthly for critical services like electricity and water largely go to the utility companies and municipalities that provide these services,” John Barton, senior vice president and national DOT practice leader for HNTB, said in a press release.
“The governments that build and maintain roadways, bridges, paths and transit systems so we can get to work or school, feed our families, supply our homes and enjoy our communities—see only a fraction of what Americans pay on average at the pump to deliver such an essential service. Typically, less than 20 percent of what we pay at the pump actually goes to fund our transportation system.”
“The low fuel taxes we pay are simply not enough to maintain our systems, let alone build or improve capacity,” explained Barton.
Dozens of states across the country are raising gas taxes to help fund mounting transportation infrastructure needs and plan for the future. Even with those taxes, however, annual vehicle registration and other fees, funding continues to fall short as more efficient automobile engines use less gas and electric vehicles, which are quickly increasing in number, use none.
However, the federal government hasn’t raised its gas tax since 1993, and the highway trust fund is woefully underfunded.
“Congress needs to think differently, think big and pass a long-term sustainable re-authorization package for surface transportation funding,” Barton said.
“It can step up communications efforts that educate Americans about the important utility of our roadways and other ways to pay for them.”
He suggested a higher federal gas tax indexed to inflation, “but new ideas are needed, too.”
“Mobility is vital to daily life—getting to work, school, recreation, healthcare, the grocery store, grandma’s house, the airport, moving the products and services we all consume each day—and it deserves investment levels that recognize that.”