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Hey, taxpayer: roads don't pay for themselves

A new report from Wisconsin shows how much taxpayers pay for roads and highways. And that kind of infrastructure doesn't come cheap.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Tanya Snyder over at the DC Streetsblog this week reminds the world that public roads and highways do not pay for themselves.

Using a new report by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin and data from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Snyder argues that roads "constitute one of the biggest tax burdens we face" thanks to heavy subsidies.

Simply: most taxpayers don't realize how expensive it is to keep up a nationwide network of infrastructure, much less how it's paid for today.

Snyder contrasts this with public transit:

Non-users fork over $779 per household for roads — as opposed to $50 for transit. But most drivers still believe that transit eats a huge chunk of transportation funding while roads are self-supporting. SSTI wanted to dispel that notion, said study author Bill Holloway.

Apples and oranges, of course, since roads often go where public transit does not. Still, the point is salient: it's hard to ask citizens to pay for infrastructure when 1.) they don't realize how much it actually costs, and 2.) they don't know how much they're already paying today.

The report itself is a data goldmine, showing just how much each of the 50 U.S. states disburses for highways and how much revenues exist to cover them. It's worth a read (.pdf). In the meantime, it's evident that clarity among constituents would help solve the municipal funding situation better than any specific initiative.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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