The Virginia Senate approved an amended transportation bill Wednesday that would raise more than $900 million annually for maintenance and roads construction through a series of tax increases on gasoline and the general sales tax, in addition to motor vehicle registration fees.
Two University of Virginia faculty members can provide comments on the state’s transportation policy and the issues now unfolding as the bill goes back to the House, which is expected to reject the Senate’s changes to the bill.
• Bill Shobe
Professor of public policy in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, adjunct professor of economics in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences and director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies in U.Va.’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service
Shobe says: “Road infrastructure in Virginia is often thought to be a central function of state government and is provided without a direct charge for use, although payments of fuel taxes are loosely linked to road use. There is much about this arrangement that should be open to question.
“First, it is not at all clear why the state government should be directly responsible for local infrastructure. Second, privatizing certain elements of road infrastructure may generate better outcomes under some circumstances. Third, not charging directly for road use and especially for road use in congested areas results in inefficient patterns of road building and road use. Finally, transportation infrastructure planning tends to subsidize dispersion of the settlement patterns, leading to the building of more (and different) roads than are economically sensible.
“It may be time to question some of the ideas about roads that we have recently taken for granted, but that may not be serving our long-term interests.”
• Ray Scheppach
Professor of practice at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Economic Fellow at the Miller Center of Public Affairs
Scheppach says: “Federal funding for highways has stagnated over the past decade. The growth in the use of more fuel-efficient engines and alternative fuel vehicles has accelerated the decline in gasoline and other user-fee revenues. As such, this has both substantially reduced total highway investment and also shifted more to the private sector.”
An earlier tip sheet on U.Va. faculty who can comment on transportation is here.