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Highway Robbery

Monday, May 07, 2007
The background: I found an article linked to from Fark.com over at Wall Street Journal. Basically, state highway departments are whining because we're starting to drive slightly more fuel efficient vehicles, and their budgets are suffering because they're funded by gasoline taxes. Getting 40+ mpg? Apparently ODOT hates you, because they want to start charging you per mile driven rather than by gallon of gas consumed.

So let's go over the math, shall we? According to the census, there are roughly 3.7 million people living in Oregon. According to some UN survey, car ownership in the US is about 776 cars per 1000 people. And, according to OregonGasPrices.com, the state tax rate on gasoline is (rounding down) $.24 per gallon (see here, also). For the sake of argument, let's assume optimistically that the average fuel economy of cars (and trucks) is 20 miles per gallon. Remember that, according to the original article, we drive about 12,000 miles per year. So...

3,700,000 people
* .776 vehicles per population
= 2,871,200 vehicles in Oregon.
* 12,000 miles per vehicle per year
= 34,454,400,000 vehicle miles driven per year in Oregon.
/ 20 miles per gallon
= 1,722,720,000 gallons of fuel consumed by Oregon drivers every year.
* $.24 per gallon
= $413,452,800 in gasoline taxes paid in Oregon per year

Of course, that doesn't count other road usage fees that are paid. Nor does it count county or city taxes, since they maintain a lot of their own roads. Doesn't count federal taxes, either. Remember that $284 billion dollar transportation bill in 2005? It's a six year spending program, so Oregon's share (if allocated fairly by percentage of population and not something silly like percentage of total land area) would be something like $583 million per year.

Basically, I really don't think that we can possibly be that underfunded. With at least a billion dollars per year going to our roads, highways, and freeways, it just doesn't seem possible that we can be suffering that much.

And let us not forget that fuel efficient vehicles tend to be lighter, which causes less wear and tear on the roads. (For instance, a Toyota Prius weighs just under 3000 lbs and gets well over twice the fuel economy of a Hummer H2, which weights closer to 6400 lbs.)

My point is that this is a really dumb idea. They're getting a lot of money. Perhaps the government should learn to spend it better instead of disingenuously encouraging better fuel economy and mass transit, while seeking ways to penalize those who choose to use fewer of the Earth's resources.


Blogger Julien Chambers said...

Yarrr... the pump pirates be takin' yer booty! Yarrr

11:07 AM, May 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice writeup, yet i would love to see how much the state is actually allocating towards fixing our streets, not paying other jobs with that money. Also it would be nice to see what it costs to fix a street. I know the cost of paving a street is dependent on oil prices. It used to be $120 / sqft but that was back when gas was only $2.00 / gal, ahh the gold old days.

1:37 PM, May 08, 2007  

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