12/11/2006Texas Report Shows Toll Roads Not Needed
Texas Transportation Institute report suggests indexing the gas tax to inflation would eliminate the need for toll roads.
A new Texas Transportation Institute report suggests future road funding can be more efficiently raised through existing gasoline taxes without the need for adding a complex toll road infrastructure. Transportation researchers Tim Lomax and David Ellis presented the study to the Texas legislature's Study Commission on Transportation Financing on November 28. It looked at the transportation needs of the states eight largest metropolitan areas and found an extra $44 billion in new road capacity would be needed over the next 25 years, a number substantially different from the one the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has been using to promote the expansion of tolling in the state.
"We recognize that there have been a lot of different numbers thrown around as to the level of need regarding transportation improvement," Ellis said.
The new data suggest that TxDOT overestimated the amount of money needed for new construction by $30 billion, causing officials to claim an increase in the gas tax of $1.20 to $3.00 a gallon would be the only alternative to imposing tolls.
Ellis explained that simply indexing the gas tax to inflation would cover the increase in construction cost. A modest increase in the tax would avoid the need to issue bonds to cover expenses. The study did not consider the option of devoting all of the gas tax money solely to transportation projects as a means of increasing transportation funding without a tax increase. The Texas state constitution mandates 25 percent in gas tax funds be diverted from transportation to shore up the public school system. With an indexed gas tax, the public education provision will take $50 billion away from road construction by 2030.
"An existing tax structure always costs less than an additional unaccountable tax on something we've already purchased," wrote Texas Toll Party founder Sal Costello, a strong opponent of toll roads.
A full copy of the report is available in a 1.4mb PDF file at the source link below.