That’s $250 more a year for every American, a smaller though still somewhat abstract number. But there are more meaningful individual costs associated with driving on roadways that are falling apart.
In addition to the cost of traffic delays, the average Washington area driver pays $578 a year for wear and tear caused by rough roads, according to calculations by the nonprofit transportation research group TRIP, which is backed by highway improvement advocates.
Delays and bad roads also cost truckers, who deliver $25 billion in goods nationwide every day, and that added expense is passed on to price tags at supermarkets and department stores.
“Traffic congestion is costing the freight transportation network nearly $8 billion per year,” according to a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Higher transportation costs mean higher consumer prices.”
If bad roads cause sticker creep at the checkout aisle, the cost of fixing them is about to cause sticker shock at the gas pump.
Aware that they can’t rely on austerity-minded Congress to triple spending for roadways, states have begun to step in with tax increases.
“State legislatures seem to be coming out of a period of denial,” said Frank Moretti, director of policy and research at TRIP. “For years they thought ‘Maybe Washington will send us lots of money,’ or ‘We’ll just push it off another year or two.’ This problem has gone beyond the point where it can just be a political football that gets put off for a few more years.”
In all, close to two dozen states have looked for new ways to fund road projects this year.
With a push from Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia overhauled the way it pays for transportation programs. A $1.4 billion plan replaces a 17.5-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on motor fuels that will keep pace with economic growth and inflation.
It’s a complex stew of new taxes that tacks about 11.5 cents on to the current cost of a gallon of gas, according to industry estimates.
Drivers in Maryland will be paying pennies more per gallon by summer under a bill that passed the Maryland Senate on Friday and will now go to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has promised to sign the measure. Within three years, the new sales tax would rise until it reaches 13 to 20 cents per gallon, according to legislative analysts. It is expected to raise $4.4 billion for roads and transit over six years.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants to sell off dozens of power and heating plants that supply universities and prisons to win bond market support for a two-year $6.4 billion transportation plan. Connecticut may charge additional tolls at its borders.