Blue Ribbon Panel Call for Gas Tax Hike Shouted Down

The “National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission” appointed by Congress two years ago recommended $285B in infrastructure spending annually for the next 25 years to deal with the deteriorating transportation system. To fund the improvements, they proposed a $0.40 increase in the Federal Gas Tax, to be phased in over several years.

Remarkably, I am told that 9 of the panel’s 12 members are Republicans. This did not keep the Bush administration from objecting:

In a 10-page dissent, the commission’s chairwoman, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, and two other members agreed with several aspects of the report but sharply criticized the proposal for higher gasoline taxes. She and the two commissioners are calling instead for sole reliance on tolls and private investment, which Peters said would avoid sending millions of dollars of new tax revenue to Washington that could end up as congressional pork.

25 responses to “Blue Ribbon Panel Call for Gas Tax Hike Shouted Down”

  1. That’s too bad. They need to fix the highways. I think out of fairness they should have added a premium to all mass transit and other forms of transportationas well.

  2. That’s a pretty ripe comment, coming from Peters. The Commission specifically laid out a plan to transform pork-based spending (that is, the heavy use of earmarks) into formula-based spending, with formulas agreed upon between regions, states and the feds. The gas tax increase (between 25 and 40 cents a gallon, depending on other fees enacted, implemented as annual 5 to 8 cent per year increases over a five year period) would then be apportioned according to the new federal program formulas, not the old earmark system.

    I don’t see Peters as shouting down this proposal. I see her objection as the dying lament of a lame-duck administration. I think it’s pretty clear that the incoming Congress and the next Administration will be the ones to actually enact the recommendations of this report.

  3. why is that huckabee ad on this site?

    Google decides what ads to put here based on the keywords on the site and the click-through rates various ads receive on similar sites, and other factors, according to a top-secret formula guarded by three of the last twelve aliens surviving the Roswell, New Mexico incident.

    The words “tax”, “Bush”, and “Republican” appear on this page, so I’m guessing the Huckabee campaign is paying to canvass pages with those keywords.

    If you click on the ad, PortlandTransport will receive an infentessimal chunk of that revenue (hint hint). :-)

  4. 40 cents, that’s it? That is going to fall short … Seems there are some fuzzy math going on there … 268 billion a year??? We already blow that much. So does that mean we need 500 billion plus per year??? This leaves more questions than I started with…


  5. As the MSNBC article states:

    Other sources of revenue could come from tolls, peak-hour “congestion pricing” on highways, freight fees and ticket taxes for passenger rail improvements, the report said.

    The article leaves out the recommendation for a federal transit tax.

    And the title of this entry is rather misleading. Three out of twelve who issue a report and avoid a news conference to avoid showing “internal division” hardly results in it being “shouted down”.

    But don’t worry, it will likely be ignored by Congress as it recommends taxes and it depoliticizing the funding of transportation projects.

  6. The Feds need to eliminate funding for transit and bicycle infrastructure being taken out of the Federal Highway Trust Fund and directly tax the users of those modes of transport – then use the Federal Highway Trust Fund only for roadway and roadway bridge projects. That will solve a large portion of the funding shortfall needed for roads.

  7. not to mention destroy neighborhoods, increase air and water pollution, and cook the planet.
    What we need in the next Federal transportation bill are funds to tear out old freeways like I-5 along the Willamette and put that land to productive use.

  8. Terry, I have to ask. Is there any other purpose to your existence besides trying to eliminate transit and bicycling infrastructure? It really is tired.

    That will solve a large portion of the funding shortfall needed for roads.
    Of course, you forgot to consider that these savings would be eaten up many times over trying to accommodate all the new cars when people are forced to switch from bus, rail, and bike to cars thanks to such a poorly-reasoned policy. Plus, no one would want to live in the neighborhoods you destroyed with freeways, instead relocating further out, taking longer trips and thus increasing traffic substantially. Instead of a 40-cent hike, it would be much much more.

  9. Is there any other purpose to your existence besides trying to eliminate transit and bicycling infrastructure?

    Unit, I can appreciate your frustration, but that’s venturing into personally-directed-remark territory. See The Rules.

    Terry should also take a good look at the rules again, especially the part about repeatedly posting the same disagreement and that this site does represent a general pro-Transit view. This is the first time Terry has posted in this particular comment thread, but it’s hard to find one here in which Terry hasn’t posted exactly the same disagreement. (And Terry, just yesterday you accused me of posting too often over on Commissioner Sam’s blog, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that others find your repeated postings here to get a bit tedious at times.)

  10. I had to chuckle when I saw an editorial in the SALEM Statesman Journal the other day about someone complaining about “bicycle users not paying”. If I can find it on the web I’ll post a link…. I just thought it funny that coming from SALEM where bicycle infrastructure isn’t nearly as built out. To eliminate all this bike versus auto owner’s squabbling why not just let vehicle owners who already pay for a large vehicle registration “register” their bicycles as well and for them it costs nothing. Then have a separate registration for bicycle only owners that pay a minimal fee like $20 a year so they contribute to the ODOT pool as well!

  11. and we could register our shoes to pay for sidewalks

    Sidewalks are paid and maintained by the property owners who the sidewalk passes in front of.

  12. Meanwhile, at another thread, there are a large number of Portlanders upset at the prospect of actually having to pay to ride transit and losing their free rides…

  13. There is another nice quote in the article:
    “The commission, established by Congress in 2005, also called for the country to rebuild and expand its rail network to meet a growing demand for alternatives to congested highways and to promote partnerships between the public and private sectors at U.S. ports.”

  14. a large number of Portlanders upset at the prospect of actually having to pay to ride transit and losing their free rides

    I wonder how much a “free ride” REALLY costs? I bet its a lot, especially late at night when there are few if any people even riding at all. I’ve seen empty or nearly empty buses, streetcars and MAX trains many times. I can’t imagine a private entity being this wasteful. Do you think Conway would survive if it sent half empty loads all over the U.S? Then why does triMet do it? It sounds asinine to me!

  15. I’d say let’s study HOT lanes and see if locales can pay for them. It works in other areas, funds freeway expansion in ways most will agree with, and allows for BRT to be built easily along those routes later, with a funding source identified.

    If an existing route, say along 99-W from Downtown to Tigard, is able to pay most of it’s annual expenses, is it so bad to pay for BRT? Can’t LRT and BRT work together?

    Underground a freeway, get the the Big Dig . Build streetcar and LRT, get the Pearl and Downtown. They both work, let’s build what we can make work. Let’s LRT Vancouver, and add BRT too… Is that so bad?

  16. I wonder how much “free parking” REALLY costs?

    I don’t know. I’m sure TriMet’s “free” park and ride lots could sell for a nice price though.

  17. I don’t know. I’m sure TriMet’s “free” park and ride lots could sell for a nice price though.

    Super idea! The revenue, plus additional, can go into creating better transit linkages to LRT lines so people won’t have to drive their cars to access transit. I like it! :)

  18. creating better transit linkages to LRT lines

    I see here once again another attempt to discredit the thousands of transit users that use TriMet in the southern portion of its system, namely those that use the following Park & Ride Lots:

    Barbur Boulevard TC
    Tualatin P&R
    Tualatin Mohawk P&R
    Tigard Cinemas P&R

    What is the “better transit linkage” that will be provided, and more importantly to WHAT LRT line?!!!

    I should note that a large number of those who use the Tigard Cinemas and the Barbur Blvd TC are line 64 riders…then again since we spent a lot of money on the Tram I see no problem with dumping them off at SoWa to use the tram, and eliminate all of the busses going to OHSU and use those “hours of service” elsewhere.

    The rest of those riders are 94, and to a lesser extent 12 line riders. How are they to be accomodated, with a “shuttle bus” to Beaverton or Sunset TC or Milwaukie?

  19. Erik:

    Dude, you seriously need to calm down. My reply was entirely meant as snark. I think selling P/R lots is a really bad idea. I think most of GT’s ideas are bad, but that’s another story…

    Ideally, we would have a transit system that could take the place of the majority of auto trips occurring today. I’m with you on the need for better transit – regionwide.

    Just chill. You’re making enemies out of your allies.

  20. I see here once again another attempt to discredit the thousands of transit users …

    Erik – please, just for a moment, try to stop seeing a conspiracy in every comment that doesn’t also include a direct nod to buses. Just try. Please also see The Rules as your increasingly off-target complaints are becoming unnecessarily repetitive.

  21. And Bob may I refer you to your second rule, which I will post verbatim:

    Passion and robust debate about ideas are what Portland Transport is about. Passion directed at individuals is not, and will be deleted promptly. Please confine your remarks to policy, opinion and data.

    Let me repeat:

    Passion directed at individuals is not, and will be deleted promptly.

    I see that you are selectively enforcing the rules and outwardly encouraging people to use comments that are targeted specifically at me as an individual and not against the views I state.

    For example:


    Dude, you seriously need to calm down.


    Just chill. You’re making enemies out of your allies.

    If you want to act as a Moderator and enforce the rules, fine. I also suggest that you follow the rules yourself, and also per the rules go through the last FIVE posts you directed at me and edit/remove them, as well as several other posts directed at me and remove them as well.

    Meanwhile, I do feel (and I will use the word as described in the rules, passionately) about the region’s ignorance towards our bus system. It is only because others repeat their claims of “transit investment” that continue to perpetuate the lack of investment in the bus system that I keep bringing it up. If you want me to, well, shut up, then I suggest that you change so that anyone that proposes “transit investments” MUST include bus investments, or at the very minimum clearly state that their proposal will not negatively affect the bus system in any way, shape or form.

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