Gas taxes can’t meet wear and tear on state’s roads

A report from the American Petroleum Institute said that California has the highest state excise tax on gasoline of any state in the country, at 36 cents per gallon.  Compare this to Florida at 4 cpg; New York, 8.1 cpg; New Jersey at 10.5 cpg, or even the national average of 20.9 cpg, and you would probably think that California’s roads are the best in the nation.

They are not.

According to a study by the Federal Highway Administration, California has the fourth worst road conditions in the country (after the District of Columbia, New Jersey and Hawaii.)  A 2010 report by the Reason Foundation put California 48th out of the 50 states (behind Alaska and Rhode Island) in quality of roads and bridges.
One reason that the high relative state gas tax doesn’t correlate with improved road quality is perhaps that the consumption of gas in the state has declined in each of the last three years.  Last year, California drivers consumed 14.5 billion gallons of gasoline, down from 14.6 billion gallons in 2011, according to California Board of Equalization. Clearly, the trend toward higher MPG, hybrid, zero emission and electric vehicles is driving – and will continue to drive — consumption down.  But the fact is that Californians aren’t driving any less, and so wear and tear on our state’s roads is constant.   
Perhaps its time to rethink the way we finance our roads?  In addition to – or instead of — a gas tax, perhaps a way to more equitably pay for wear and tear on our roads is to look at factors such as vehicle weight and miles travelled?

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