Today, October 1, marks 20 years since Congress last raised the federal gas tax. The tax, which brings in about $35 billion annually to pay for federal transportation projects, has been 18.4 cents-per-gallon since Oct. 1, 1993.
Although $35 billion sounds like a lot of money, it is not enough to fund federal transportation programs. The current transportation law spends about $54 billion per year on road and transit projects. Since 2005, Congress has transferred over $50 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund and transit funds. The Highway Trust is projected to be insolvent as early as fall 2014.
The last federal gas tax increase, a 4.3 cents-per-gallon hike, was passed under former President Clinton.
The Commission is holding public input meetings in six ferry-served communities throughout the system starting next week. Details on the meeting dates/locations as well as further detail on the proposal can be found on our web site: http://wstc.wa.gov/WhatsNew/FerryFareRateSettingPublicOutreach.htm
Here is a summary list of the meeting dates and locations:
- Monday July 8 – San Juan Islands Interisland Ferry (in the afternoon) and Anacortes (in the evening)
- Wednesday, July 10 – Coupeville
- Thursday, July 11 – Vashon Island
- Monday, July 15 – Bainbridge Island
- Tuesday, July 16 – Port Orchard
The Commission will hold its final hearing, take further public testimony, and will take action on July 30th at 3:00 pm at their meeting in Seattle at Union Station.
Each year the Washington State Transportation Commission visits four or five communities around the state to learn about local transportation needs, challenges and successes. A visit to Port Townsend and Jefferson County this week kicks off the 2013 community meetings. The Commission will tour various transportation sites on Tuesday afternoon and meet all day in Port Townsend on Wednesday, May 22, at the Port of Port Townsend. In addition to hearing from the cities of Port Townsend, Port Angeles, and Sequim and Jefferson and Clallam Counties, the agenda also includes WSDOT, the local ports and transit agencies and tribes. Presentations will zero in on the importance of transportation to the area’s tourism economy and the unique demands on transit created by the state’s highest percentage of elderly population.
The Commission travels to Walla Walla in June, to Colville and Spokane in September, and to Bothell in November. During other months, with the exception of August, the Commission meets in Olympia.
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano and Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, the Honourable Vic Toews signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) paving the way for a truck cargo pre-inspection pilot project on Canadian soil. The MOU is a commitment made as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan.
“Our Government aims to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods and services at the Canada-U.S. border, as envisioned in the Beyond the Border Action Plan,” said Minister Toews. “The pilot announced today will test the concept of conducting primary inspection of U.S.-bound truck cargo in Canada in order to better manage our shared border and improve economic opportunities for Canadian manufacturers and their U.S.-based supply chain partners.”
“Our countries have made significant progress in implementing the initiatives of the Beyond the Border Action Plan,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The implementation of the truck cargo pre-inspection pilot will aim to further enhance the economic and national security of both of our nations.”
The truck cargo pre-inspection pilot will be carried out in two phases:
•Phase I will test the concept of conducting U.S. primary cargo inspection in Canada, and will be implemented at the Pacific Highway crossing between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Washington.
•Phase II will further test how pre-inspection could enhance border efficiency and reduce wait times to facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and will be implemented at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.
The Oregon and Washington Transportation Commissions met jointly on Wednesday, September 19, to discuss topics of bi-state importance, including the Amtrak Cascades Passenger Rail Service, the West Coast Electric Highway and the I-5 Columbia River Crossing.
Motor fuel tax revenue, which accounts for the largest share of state transportation funding (about 46 percent in the 2011/2013 biennium), is declining.
Without a revenue stream that can defend current and future needs for maintenance and operations, preservation, safety improvements, and congestion-relief projects for state highways and ferries, the quality of Washington’s transportation system will decline.
Between 2007 and 2023, Washington State fuel tax revenues are projected to fall by more than $5 billion.
With the exception of tolls and ferry fares, transportation tax and fee rates are set by state law and require legislative action.
The 18th amendment, approved in 1944, requires motor vehicle fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to be used exclusively for highway purposes. The Legislature has imposed additional restriction on the use of most transportation revenue.
Increased Fuel Efficiency Leads to Lower Motor Fuel Tax Collection
Fuel economy will likely continue to improve under the federal government’s policy goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The U.S. Department of Transportation and EPA are implementing the first phase of these standards, which already improved fuel economy in 2010, and will raise fuel efficiency from 22.6 mpg (2010) to 35.5 mpg by 2016.
Improved fuel efficiency reduces air pollution, CO2 emissions, our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and has the potential for creating new jobs around emerging technologies. It will also, however, continue to decrease state revenue from motor fuel taxes.
Enough drivers will opt to pay a toll to use the HOV lanes to cover operating costs and travel times imporve for everyone. On General Purpose lanes:
- NB speed at peak increased from 44 mph to 51 mph
- SB speed at peak increased from 42 mph to 56 mph
- Volume down 11%
In April 2012, 3400 drivers chose tolled trips per weekday, twice the amount in April 2009. The average monthly revenue exceeds average monthly operating costs by $15,000.
The SR 167 HOT Lanes Pilot ends June 30, 2013 without legislative action.