January 21, 2020

2008 Industry Outlook

Transportation 2008

Thinking outside the pump: As people drive less and use more fuel-efficient cars, funding improvements is becoming more problematic.

Jeff Brooks | 1/1/2008
While conserving fuel may be good for the environment, burning less gasoline also means the state gets less revenue from the gas tax — and must look for new ways to fund road and bridge construction.

Among the options is replacing the per-gallon tax with what amounts to a user fee. Motorists would be charged “for the miles you use, how many miles you put on the road,” says Kevin Thibault, assistant secretary for engineering and operations for the Florida Department of Transportation.

Later this year, possibly in Orlando or Miami, FDOT may test the approach; it’s deciding whether to develop its own version of a pilot program pioneered by transportation officials in Oregon. There, an off-the-shelf device was installed in some motorists’ vehicles to track the number of miles they drove. At a gas station, a special pump reads the device. “You traveled 200 miles at so many cents a mile,” Thibault says. “Boom, here’s your tax.”

Though Thibault says the Oregon pilot “worked very well,” it could be problematic to accurately track a large number of drivers and collect the fee. One possibility: An odometer radio tag that would count total miles traveled between refueling, then wirelessly download the mileage information at gas stations, where the user fee would be automatically calculated and added to the fuel bill.

Regardless of the pilot program’s fate, the funding issue will persist, says Thibault. “The way we collect revenue through the motor vehicle fuel tax is just not the way it’s going to need to work in the future. We’re still going to have transportation needs, so there’s going to be another method to determine how we fund transportation.”

Motor Fuel Consumption
Year % Growth
1996-97 1.64%
1997-98 2.60
1998-99 3.82
1999-2000 2.73
2000-01 1.90
2001-02 2.52
2002-03 2.67
2003-04 3.96
2004-05 3.47
2005-06 0.40
2006-07 0.06
Source: Florida Department of Transportation
Top East Coast Ports
(Based on the number of 20-foot containers that pass through the port)
New York/New Jersey
Savannah, Ga.
Hampton Roads, Va.
Charleston, S.C.
Port Everglades
Wilmington, Del.
Source: American Association of Port Authorities

Tags: North Central

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