Economics of Roads
Nearly all road building and maintenance comes from general indiscriminate taxes. Gasoline taxes and tolls pay for only a third of state and local road spending. As a result various industries take advantage of it and use in a very inefficient way. For example the land based freight industry in America is bigger than rail however it is nearly 10 times less efficient. So why is it like this? The answer is; free roads. An 18 wheeler truck causes enormous wear and tear on the road compared to a passenger car but they pay basically the same amount for use of the road.
Buses and trucks use up a higher share of road wear and tear and space per gallon of gasoline/diesel then private passenger cars.
A higher gas tax is not the answer. In Canada for instance only 40 percent of the heavy gas tax even goes to road infrastructure spending. Also many cars and trucks in the future won’t even use gasoline. Tesla’s Semi runs on electricity and won’t even require a driver which might make trucking as efficient as rail. However the Semi will only be able to compete against rail because it doesn’t have to pay for the roads.
Higher tolls wont work because its impossible to put tolls on inner city roads and small highways. If you made the drivers on the toll road pay closer to there actual usage they would end up driving on the non toll roads.
Another strain on the road infrastructure is that it isn’t efficient for larger populations. American cities are growing by leaps and bounds and are very overcrowded for American standards. The American road system cannot possibly provide infrastructure for the growing number of vehicles. Basically its relatively cheap and easy to maintain a huge road system such as America as long as theres only light to medium usage.
The only solution is a tax system where only those who use the roads pay according to how much there use costs. Perhaps one day a digital system could measure the weight and space of each car and tax that directly. Until then we can expect road system to always be basket case for governments to neglect.