Chances are if you're driving, biking, or walking down any city street these days, you're bound to see roadways peppered with potholes, and pathetic patch jobs futilely trying to extend the life of decades-old asphalt.
But what's to blame for America's crumbling transportation infrastructure might surprise you. Thanks to increasingly efficient cars and trucks, coupled with an overall decline in fuel consumption, federal, state and local transportation infrastructure budgets — funded by a flat per-gallon gasoline tax — are dwindling, leaving government officials less and less money to put toward repairs.
In short, less fuel consumption means less fuel tax revenue, and less fuel tax revenue means there's less money to go around for road repairs.
But we're not headed back to driving on dirt roads yet. More than a dozen states are considering raising their state gas taxes to replenish bone-dry transportation infrastructure funds. Some already have. Maryland passed its first gas tax hike in 20 years last month. According to analysts, motorists in the Old Line state can expect to pay between 13 and 20 cents more per gallon by mid-2016 thanks to the gas tax increase. Virginia, too, has tinkered with its gasoline tax, abolishing the 17.5-cent-per-gallon flat fee and instead levying a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on motor fuels that flexes with inflations along with hikes in sales tax. Some of the increased revenue will be funneled to meet infrastructure funding needs.
While these initiatives might infuse road repair budgets with some much-needed cash, state lawmakers could face some serious backlash in coming years as consumers already facing sticker shock at the gas pump see additional taxes tacked on to their fuel bills
According to a new Gallup poll released Monday, the vast majority of Americans oppose higher taxes on their fuel purchases, with two-thirds saying they would vote against a law increasing the gas tax in their state, even if it meant repairing rickety bridges and patching up pothole riddled roads.
"It is not clear whether Americans' lack of support for this proposal stems from the type, amount, or purpose of the tax," Gallup noted. "Americans may be opposed to increasing the price of gas — a necessary commodity for many individuals — during a fragile economy, regardless of how the resulting funds are used."
Gallup polled 1,018 adults by telephone April 9-10. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.