Many Americans take it for granted that the federal government should regulate the transportation sector in the United States and continue to provide funding for transportation infrastructure, particularly highways and urban mass transit. Yet an economic and historical analysis raises questions about how much government safety regulation is necessary and whether private firms or state and local governments could provide infrastructure more efficiently.
As gas prices have fallen dramatically across the country, congressmen from both sides of the aisle have proposed raising the gas tax to increase funding for America's aging highways and bridges. Maintaining or increasing spending on highways is urgent, given that one-third of the nation's roads may be in poor or mediocre condition while a quarter of its bridges are in need of repair, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
With Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) intent on introducing a transportation bill as early as April, lawmakers are scrambling to bail out the transportation trust fund—a fund which may fall short of its obligations by August, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Citing widespread congestion and poorly preserved roads, bridges, and tunnels, some would argue for raising fuel taxes to pay for maintenance and expansion of highway and public transportation systems. But most Americans strongly oppose increased fuel taxes because state and federal governments have a well-documented record of misspending transportation dollars.