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A Road Is A Road To Socialism Road

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Aside from the Commerce Clause.... It, along with military/defense, was used to justify federal leadership in the development of the Interstate & Defense Highway System, even though interstate travel and military shipments represent a very small part of the Interstate highway system's usage. The interstate system started out by building it with 95 percent federal funding!

 

Most highway travel is local. I'd love to use an interstate example but I don't have one. But I do have an intrastate Ohio example to show just how localized Interstate Highway travel really is. When the 3C rail program was being development, it found that, of the 250,000 +/- vehicles driving on I-71 each day between Cleveland and Columbus, a heavy majority (170,000) of that was within the metro areas of Cleveland and Columbus. Only 5,000 mostly single-occupant cars traveled the entire distance between Cleveland and Columbus each day. Of that, the 3C trains were projected to attract about 25 percent of those drivers. There are also many thousands of trucks, but most of those aren't long-distance either. Half of all trucks travel less than 50 miles from their points of origin and three-fourths stayed within their base state. Less than 10 percent of trucks travel to places more than 200 miles away, according to the FHWA.

 

So it makes me angry when the Trump administration and its DOT secretary from the Heritage Foundation wants to eliminate federal funding for public transportation and rail while leaving federal funding intact for highways (only half of which come from user fees). So yeah, interstates 270, 271, 275, 280, 471, 475, 480, 490, 670, 680 and other urban/metro area highways are maintained with 80 percent federal funds while transit and rail are routinely threatened with elimination by demagogues and self-interest johns masquerading as policy-minded bureaucrats.


"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" -- Lady Liberty

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1 hour ago, Brutus_buckeye said:

The thing is that roads and has never been a federal responsibility and I am not sure the feds even have Constitutional jurisdiction to have a federal mileage tax.

Roads are maintained by the state, licensing and taxing is all state regulated. The state controls their roads. Yes, Feds can give money with strings attached, but legally they probably could not administer a national mileage tax program. THis would be solely at the state level.

 

LOL -- sure, roads are not a federal "responsibility" but remove the federal funding and the interstate system collapses in short order.  The states control their roads, sure, but they are dependent on federal funding. 

 

How do you suppose the 71/75 bridge over the Ohio River is going to be paid for? And when?   I cannot foresee any way that the states would pick up the slack for federal funds, and that bridge is a prime example.

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Coordinating between states for major infrastructure projects is a nightmare. I recall there was a bridge project on the Ohio River at either Steubenville or Point Pleasant that was stalled for years because the states of Ohio and West Virginia couldn't agree on a funding arrangement. It wasn't until the federal government stepped in and offered 80 percent federal funding, with each state kicking in 10 percent, that the project moved forward.

 

Here's another one -- the USDOT wanted only one train linking Chicago and New York City as part of the original Amtrak system in 1971. The governors of Ohio and New York protested, wanting service on the former New York Central mainline through Toledo and Cleveland (which had 15 daily round trip passenger trains daily as recently as 15 years earlier). So both states agreed to fund a new train through Amtrak's 403B (state support) program. It was called The Lake Shore and it began service on May 10, less than two weeks after Amtrak started on May 1. While Ohio came through with its funding share, New York did not, citing its as-yet incomplete statewide passenger rail plan. So the train stopped running on Jan. 5, 1972.

 

It wasn't until 1975 when Amtrak chose the Chicago-Boston route (with a section to New York City) as one of its three new experimental routes that would be 100 percent federally funded. It was called the Lake Shore Limited and it was an immediate hit, ridership-wise. Since then, thanks to federal leadership and 400,000 riders per year (1,100+ riders per day), it has been one of the top-5 Amtrak routes served by a single round trip in the USA.


"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" -- Lady Liberty

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56 minutes ago, Foraker said:

 

LOL -- sure, roads are not a federal "responsibility" but remove the federal funding and the interstate system collapses in short order.  The states control their roads, sure, but they are dependent on federal funding. 

 

How do you suppose the 71/75 bridge over the Ohio River is going to be paid for? And when?   I cannot foresee any way that the states would pick up the slack for federal funds, and that bridge is a prime example.

 But when you have government, oftentimes process matters just as much if not more than the result. Yes, without the federal funding the states lose the ability to fund the roads, but, the fact is the Feds can only give grants to the states to administer on how to build the roads and maintain them. Yes, they can have strings attached to them but their recourse if the state does not comply is to yank funding. The Feds cannot come in and take over the system themselves. They would need to use the carrot and stick approach to get the states to comply

 

To do a mileage tax, the Feds would need to require that all cars in the US built after a certain date have a way to track this. They would then need to mandate to the states that if the states did not keep track of this or refuse to renew tags to cars that do not have the capability to track mileage, then they would lose highway funds. It could be doable but it is a herculean task that could take years to implement.

 

I wonder if the hybrid and E-vehicle crowd would go down fighting against this since they often are free riders on the gas tax right now.

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23 hours ago, Brutus_buckeye said:

I wonder if the hybrid and E-vehicle crowd would go down fighting against this since they often are free riders on the gas tax right now.

 

 

Both the federal government and the states have routinely "replenished" their highway funds with general revenue funds (which is primarily income tax receipts) -- and on that basis I would argue that there are no free riders. 

 

Let's also consider the fact that heavier vehicles do more damage to roadways than lighter-weight vehicles.  But even the gas tax does not accurately impose the costs of using the roadway because the weight of the vehicle is not a factor in the tax imposed.

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Hybrid and electric car drivers are only "free riders" if you believe that the only purpose of a gas tax is to fund roads. If you consider the gas tax a "sin tax" that discourages the burning of fossil fuels, it is working exactly as intended...we just need to find a different way to fund highway infrastructure going forward as hybrids and electrics make up a bigger and bigger percentage of total vehicles.

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Non-plugin Hybrids really only get about 3-5 MPG better above 35 miles per hour than an equivalent gas-only model. On the highway the difference can be almost zero. I wouldn't put much thought into them regrading this issue.

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19 minutes ago, taestell said:

Hybrid and electric car drivers are only "free riders" if you believe that the only purpose of a gas tax is to fund roads. If you consider the gas tax a "sin tax" that discourages the burning of fossil fuels, it is working exactly as intended...we just need to find a different way to fund highway infrastructure going forward as hybrids and electrics make up a bigger and bigger percentage of total vehicles.

Gas taxes have never been seen as "sin" taxes. They were an efficient way to fund roads because, 1) for a long time it was the only way to measure mileage. Give or take a car will only get a certain MPG. The heavier the car, lesser MPG it gets and more damage to the road, therefore, it pays "higher" taxes. 2) within reason, a galloon of gas will get on avg 25-40 MPG, less if you have a truck or heavier vehicle. While non-exact, the gas tax gives a rough idea of how many miles people drive. 

 

Only with today's technology can we determine things more accurately

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8 hours ago, Brutus_buckeye said:

They were an efficient way to fund roads

 

They were an efficient way to fund roads until we decided that gas taxes don't need to fully cover the cost of roads, and that we should continue to increase highway spending without increasing gas tax revenue accordingly.

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And don't forget, like I've said many times before, that the local street network sees little to no gas tax revenue, it's paid for out of general funds.  Of course, a lot of people burn gas while driving on those streets, so they're double-subsidizing the highways. 

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There used to be more tolls, as well. Like the Roebling was tolled until the Brent Spence was built. The gas tax wasn't looked at as a sin tax when it was originally conceived (the externalities of burning gas were little understood at the time), but it also wasn't seen as the user fee to replace all user fees. I think it's fallacious to pick and choose intent behind the origin of any of these things and use that to invalidate evolved conceptions. None of it was ever static.

 

The current funding scheme is Big Government at its worst: full of perverse incentives and unintended consequences.

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"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" -- Lady Liberty

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