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By Shelby O. Mitchell

Congress has until March 31 to avoid extending SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) for the ninth time. Given opposition over how best to fund a new federal surface transportation program, don't hold your breath.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's latest five-year, $260 billion proposal includes funding (less than 1%) from royalties on expanded oil and gas drilling and oil shale production — a controversial revenue source that the Senate's two-year, $109 billion plan doesn't consider.

In February, we asked our e-newsletter recipients if they thought the House was on the right track.

Here's what you said:

Pros

  • As a supplemental funding source, yes. It won't be enough to meet needs, but it may bridge the shortfall from gas taxes.
  • It's certainly a better source than the deficit-ridden federal budget. Most of us didn't have shovel-ready projects to qualify for federal bailout money.
  • The Obama administration needs to move forward with issuing and approving offshore oil and gas permits for extraction and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of necessary resources that we have in abundance here.
  • If it helps the Democrats vote to lift the ban, then I'm all for it.
  • Wouldn't hurt to try!

Cons

  • We need a more consistent and reliable source. We have an irrational fear of taxes, but our burden isn't high compared to other developed nations.
  • Republicans represent big business and neither has shown they can be trusted. They're purely profit-driven, and the public generally loses when they have their way.
  • They should use the royalties to address pollution from oil and gas drilling.

Maybes

  • Only if lifting the moratorium includes strict, heavy, and easily implemented regulatory enforcement. The Deepwater Horizon oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico was the result of the industry rolling the dice on that kind of spill because there are no real consequences: An immediate, effective response costs much less than developing a new well.
  • Not in the Gulf of Mexico. It's a small body of water surrounded by land that already has enough wells.
7 MORE SUGGESTIONS

Over the years, states have considered various schemes to fill gaps in federal funding. Transportation fellow Conrad deFiebre compiled this list for the nonpartisan think tank Minnesota 2020.

  • Tax miles, not gallons. A fee per mile traveled also fights congestion by making driving during rush hours or on heavily traveled routes more expensive.
  • Privatize. Turn over roads to investors via long-term leases.
  • Mow less. Assign roadside maintenance to cities and counties.
  • Return paved rural roads to gravel. Maintenance costs two-thirds less than asphalt.
  • A word from our sponsor. Charge to advertise on highway helper trucks and state message boards.
  • Roadside attractions. Allow commercial concessions at rest areas.
  • Watch. Use cameras to catch more unlicensed and uninsured drivers and increase fine revenues.

For a link to the full article, click here.

QUICK POLL

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