...in the aftermath of this tragedy, a necessary national conversation has begun concerning the state of the nation's bridges and highways and the financial model used to build, maintain and operate them.Her opinion regarding higher gas taxes as a solution is clear:
...the gas tax does virtually nothing to reduce the explosion in highway congestion occurring in the past 25 years. Gas taxes are levied regardless of when and where someone drives, creating a misperception that highways are "free." In turn, this encourages overuse and gridlock, often at precisely the times we need highways the most. The Government Accountability Office last month released a report arguing that gas taxes are fundamentally incapable of balancing supply and demand for roads during periods of congestion. We agree.Secretary Peters has not come recently to this understanding. Indeed it was held by her predecessor Norman Mineta and many in the Department of Transportation long before that. Economist have know this since at least the 1960s. What has stopped this understanding from surfacing is a total lack of political courage, generally at State level. And it is fear of voter backlash that requires a disaster such as the I-35 bridge to permit an informed debate.
The GAO, along with almost every expert who has studied the issue, says that direct pricing of road use, similar to how people pay for other utilities, holds far more promise in addressing congestion than do traditional gas taxes.
President Bush’s famous “we are addicted to oil” speech caused quite a (temporary) stir, back when. I wish he would also say: “…and raising gas-taxes will not solve the problem. Paying for roads as you use them will.” Only then will journalists write less about the necessity to raise the gas-tax and more about the real problem.