FHWA Issues $14.2M in Grants To Test New Methods for Funding Highways

September 14, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

highways-1500097You probably don’t think much about it as you’re traveling down the interstate, unless the road is bumpy or has multiple potholes. “This state should spend some money fixing up these highway,” you may say to yourself. However, other than collecting funds through a gas tax and tolls, and receiving federal assistance through the Highway Trust Fund, how else are states finding the funds to pay for these repairs?

To help sustain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently awarded more than $14.2 million in grants to states under a new program to explore alternative revenue mechanisms. The Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives grant program, established under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, will fund projects to test the design, implementation and acceptance of user-based alternative revenue mechanisms.

The eight awarded projects will pilot a variety of options to raise revenue, including on-board vehicle technologies to charge drivers based on miles traveled and multi-state or regional approaches to road user charges. According to the FHWA, the projects will address common challenges involved with implementing user-based fees such as public acceptance, privacy protection, equity and geographic diversity. The projects will also evaluate the reliability and security of the technologies available to implement mileage-based fees.

For example, the California Department of Transportation received a $750,000 award for a road user charge pilot using pay-at-the-pump charging stations. Road charging means drivers pay to help maintain the roads based on the distance they travel or a period of time they use the roads, rather than the amount of gasoline they consume. This becomes more important as cars become more fuel efficient and many drivers are paying less gas tax, reducing the amount of money used for fixing roads.

Along with California, other awards were made to the Delaware Department of Transportation ($1.5 million); the Hawaii Department of Transportation ($4 million); the Minnesota Department of Transportation ($300,000); the Missouri Department of Transportation ($250,000); the Oregon Department of Transportation ($3.6 million for two awards); and the Washington Department of Transportation ($3.8 million).

Change is hard for many folks, and public acceptance to these new forms of revenue-generation techniques is critical. These success these states have in introducing these funding methods will be vital to expanding these efforts nationwide. We’ll be interested to follow the progress of these programs.

How do you feel about alternate methods of funding highways? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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