DOT budget would fund tests of gas tax alternatives

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The U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s annual budget request includes a pilot program in which tolls and other fees would be used to test new ways of financing highway construction and managing congestion other than the gasoline tax. DOT Secretary Norman Mineta asked for $100 million to fund that program, which was part of the $65.6 billion budget request he made Monday, Feb. 6 for the 2007 fiscal year.

“There is a growing consensus that traditional gasoline taxes and airline ticket taxes are not adequate to the task of supporting Twenty-First Century transportation needs,” Mineta says. “The lessons that we learn through these demonstrations will help inform future decisions on surface transportation policies.”

The federal proposal would call for partnerships with as many as five states to test fees, tolls and other approaches to examine new ways to raise revenue and ease traffic on congested roads. Mineta says the federal government will see how the public responds to these approaches, how well the new techniques raise revenue and whether the methods are more effective in reducing traffic congestion.

Besides finding new ways to fund highway financing, the budget request would provide for record investments in new highway, transit and safety programs. “Our transportation network is the backbone of the strongest and most dynamic economy in the world,” Mineta says. “So this budget looks to the future, setting the stage for modernizing our financing as well as our infrastructure.”

The budget — which promises $50 billion for transit, highways and safety programs — is a $3.3 billion increase over the 2006 budget. One-fourth of the budget request will pay for safety initiatives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would get $815 million.