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Congestion Pricing for Road Finance: Time to Replace Gasoline Taxes?

By Randal O'Toole -- June 13, 2012

“[Gasoline] taxes do not properly price roads, with the result that traffic congestion costs Americans close to $200 billion per year…. Congestion pricing can … nearly double actual road capacities during rush hour, from 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles an hour.”

Gasoline and diesel fuel taxes have long been the main source of funding for building, maintaining, and operating America’s network of highways, roads, and streets. This is why the American Petroleum Institute nearly a century ago worked to enact such levies, welcoming taxes on its product to enable systemic road building to increase the demand for its chief product.

Today’s motor-fuel taxes are, at best, an imperfect user fee. One problem is that inflation and increasingly fuel-efficient cars have rapidly eroded gas tax revenues. After adjusting for inflation, drivers today pay only a third as much for each mile they drive as they did in 1956, when Congress created the Interstate Highway System.…