In this February 2017 photo, officials looked over the scene at Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass, California, where part of the freeway collapsed due to heavy rain. Photo: The Associated Press

By David A. Lieb
7 May 2017

(Associated Press) – For the first time in nearly 30 years, Tennessee will soon tax motorists more to fill their tanks. So will California, Indiana, and Montana.

Lawmakers across the U.S. have approved new proposals this year to pay for transportation improvements, including tax hikes, vehicle fee increases and bond packages. Those measures extended an existing trend to a new milestone: Two-thirds of all states have stepped up highway funding over the past five years.

It's happening in both Democratic- and Republican-led states as their transportation departments strain to overcome backlogs deepened by the last recession. And lawmakers are acting regardless of promises from President Donald Trump for a $1 trillion national infrastructure program that his administration has yet to detail.

Some state officials doubt that Trump's plan will make much of a difference when it comes to repairing and replacing thousands of old bridges or repaving and widening countless miles of congested roads.

"We really don't know what's in it. We haven't seen anything," said Tennessee state Rep. Eddie Smith, a Republican from Knoxville. But "it sounded like there wasn't going to be a lot that we would directly benefit from." [...]

The U.S. has an $836 billion backlog of needed repairs and improvements to roads and bridges, plus an additional $90 billion backlog for public transit systems, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Those needs have grown as the money available from the Federal Highway Trust Fund for states fell by more than 9 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of the most recent figures from the highway administration.

A 2015 federal law increases Highway Trust Fund money for states by $20 billion over five years through traditional matching funds and new competitive grants. But some financial analysts project that will merely hold funding flat when accounting for inflation. [more]

Crumbling roads and bridges bring higher taxes and fees

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