U.S. roads and bridges are in abysmal shape – and that was before the recent winter storms made things even worse.
In fact, the government rates over one-quarter of all urban interstates as in fair or poor condition and one-third of U.S. bridges need repair.
To fix the potholes and crumbling roads, federal, state and local governments rely on fuel taxes, which raise more than US$80 billion a year and pay for around three-quarters of what the U.S. spends on building new roads and maintaining them.
I recently purchased an electric car, the Tesla Model 3. While swerving down a particularly rutted highway in New York, the economist in me began to wonder, what will happen to the roads as fewer and fewer cars run on gasoline? Who will pay to fix the streets?
Fuel taxes 101
Every time you go to the pump, each gallon of fuel you purchase puts money into a variety of pockets.
About half goes to the drillers that extract oil from the earth. Just under a quarter pays the refineries to turn crude into gasoline. And around 6 percent goes to distributors.
The rest, or typically about 20 percent of every gallon of gas, goes to various governments to maintain and enhance the U.S. transportation’s infrastructure.
Currently, the federal government charges 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline, which provides 85 percent to 90 percent of the Highway Trust Fund that finances most federal spending on highways and mass transit.