Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis, who lost a campaign in January for federal gasoline tax increases to pay for highway and transit needs, told the nation's most influential road-building lobby yesterday that such a tax still is a possibility.
Speaking in Phoenix to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), Lewis said, "We have been authorized to have the user fee concept considered within the Cabinet Council on Economic Affairs."
User fees for highway and transit needs are synonymous with gasoline tax increases.
Lewis had persuaded the Office of Management and Budget and some White House officials of the need for a federal gasoline tax increase of as much as 5 cents a gallon at the pump, but he lost in the Oval Office.
Sources said that he had White House clearance to reopen the possibility of a gasoline tax at the ARTBA meeting but that final approval by President Reagan was not assured.
Lewis said that if the federal gasoline tax of 2 cents per gallon is sent to the "New Federalism" trust fund, as has been proposed, "the remainder of the highway user fees will finish the interstate" highway system and pay for some interstate reconstruction, "but that is about all."
Rehabilitation and replacement of bridges alone is projected to cost $60 billion.