As The US shifts more and a lot more toward electric automobiles and efficiency standards that require that all vehicles to achieve at least 35 mpg, there may be a hidden peril lurking for the Interstate Highway System. As Keith Crain points out in a recent op-ed piece for Automotive News, the funding mechanism for building and maintaining the IHS – the Highway Trust Fund – depends heavily upon gasoline tax. As drivers consume more gasoline, a lot more tax dollars are funneled to the Highway Trust Fund. Eventually, the new breed of efficient internal combustion and electronic vehicles will require no gas to operate. That is the reason why Crain is asking Congress to discover a new way to maintain the Highway Trust Fund.
Article Resource: Will the Interstate Highway system be killed by the electric car?
The Interstate Highway System’s short-term stimulus
During President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration, the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 (which established the Interstate Highway System) was considered a landmark public works law. The network of highways remains the largest system of its kind within the world, and also the ways in which it has furthered commerce, travel and defense in The US cannot be discounted. But lawmakers at that time were unable to predict just how much money would be required to maintain the IHS over time. Following the Highway Trust Fund had initially expired, Congress has found ways to keep it open. This has only helped the fund for a short term. President Obama’s green initiatives look good on paper, but transitioning the American public to using public transport instead of private autos for daily tasks may be a difficult goal.
Complicated is the Highway Trust Fund debate
C-Span recently posted a three-plus hour debate on funding the highway system. Part of the problem, according to Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain, is that Congress too often “raids the cookie jar,” taking money out of the Highway Trust Fund in order to finance no matter what projects they want. Ray Lahood, Transportation Secretary, proposed a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to make up for gas tax shortages. According to the Washington Post, this idea is quite unpopular because numerous fear that the government will use mileage counters to monitor drivers.
Where will the money come from?
Nobody has agreed on any one answer. Crain advises that Congress seriously consider solutions right now, rather than waiting until the last moment and deciding hastily. The number of hybrid cars on America's roads grew by about 1.6 million as outlined by a 2009 study published by Tobbits.com. Assuming this trend continues, the problems the Interstate Highway System and Highway Trust Fund face are only going to increase.