Where I live outside of Lansing, there are new bike paths sporting shiny asphalt, but the roads are crumbling. Motorists might be surprised to learn that of the 18.4 cents per gallon of federal gas tax they pay at the pump, only about 11 cents goes to maintain highways and bridges.
According to federal law, about 10 percent of federal highway funds must be used for projects such as highway beautification and transportation museums. According to a new National Center for Policy Analysis report, “Paying for Pet Projects at the Pump,” the Federal Highway Administration also allocates gas tax revenues to projects such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities and mass transit. Gas tax dollars have funded projects as diverse as a driving simulator at the National Corvette Museum, an amphibian crossing in Vermont and a turtle crossing in Florida.
Gov. Rick Snyder has lamented that Michigan is not taking in enough money to maintain highways and bridges. Rather than considering new taxes or changing the funding mechanism for roads and bridges, the governor and legislators should strongly advocate that the feds get out of the transportation business by devolving that function back to the states where it rightly belongs. In addition, Michigan should join 30 other states that mandate state gas taxes must be spent on roads and bridges.
Our elected leaders should ensure that the gas tax dollars Michigan motorists are paying are being used to fix Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure. There is little wonder that Americans increasingly distrust government when tax dollars go to politically favored projects rather than the purpose for which they were intended.