Monday, July 22, 2013

No Road Pays for Itself

Blogger is being a pain so we'll see how this post turns out, I'll keep it short. H/T to Andrew at Better Block for sending me this article on TxDOT admitting the painfully obvious but all too often obscured truth, that no road pays for itself. Here's the key passage:
Another way of describing this is to do a “tax gap” analysis, which shows how much the state fuel tax would have to be on that given corridor for the ratio for revenues to match costs. Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon.
It's not surprising that the article mentioned from TxDOT is no longer available (at least the link is dead). While at the same time, TxDOT is asking to double their budget. That gravy train means jobs (only in the short-term) even if that train's tracks run right off a [fiscal] cliff. It's very difficult for any transportation to pay for itself until you connect it to development patterns. Moreso, it really only counts when you look at the life-cycle costs of both that piece of infrastructure and its related development and tax base. The real question(s) we should be asking is what kind of infrastructure yields sustainable development patterns, reduced car dependence, and a tax base that can maintain its infrastructure. I promise you, it's not sprawl and auto-dependent. It's unfortunate that fiscal conservatives conflate the supposed "independence" provided by a car while ignoring the dependence and fiscal train wreck car-dependent infrastructure instills.