Yesterday, the Feds announced a proposal that would increase the overall gas tax by 40 cents per gallon over the next 5 years. That's 200% increase over the next five years.
The reason for the tax increase is the US, at all levels, should be spending between $225 billion and $340 billion in surface transportation each year -- but is generally spending about 40% of that. The Kansas City area alone has an estimated $5 billion in shortfalls on roads -- including upgrades to K10, K7, 69 Highway in Johnson County, and I-70 in Eastern Jackson County.
That's a lot of $$$.
There was an interesting quote by Missouri Rep. Sam Graves:
"Americans are already paying too much at the pump for gasoline. I believe that we should invest in our roads and infrastructure, but the way to do it is to cut spending on wasteful federal programs."
Hard to argue about wasteful federal programs...however, he's wrong about Americans paying too much for gas. In spite of many, many increases in the price of gasoline over time, Americans continue to trend upward in terms of total travel miles. I'm no economics genious, but if we continue to buy more gas, in light of rising prices, the price isn't too high...ESPECIALLY when we are burning gas faster than mother earth can make more. Supply and demand would indicate that Graves is wrong.
Overall, we NEED to do something about the increased shortfall in money spent on transportation. The gas tax may be the answer. However, cities, and the Feds, need to be investing in better public/mass transportation systems so that people who cannot afford the higher prices of gas have other options. We can't afford as a society to just hike up the price of gasoline and not provide other alternatives. It would be a complete disaster for the lower income brackets (and thus all of us). All signs point toward inproving public transit. This means light rail, better bus service, and better rail service between cities (aka Amtrak).
For those of you who don't think that light rail is a viable option given the costs -- I want to remind you that the KC Area alone is looking at $5 BILLION in road improvements over the next 10 years...on non-sustainable traffic improvements. $5 billion, at a cost of $40 million a mile, would build 125 total miles of light rail line over the next decade. That would cover a lot of area.
If this comes to fruition, look for a short-term decrease in urban sprawl, and increased demand for homes closer to the city, and a major increase in demand for public transportation. Is our city prepared for this? We should be preparing. Now.