Congressional Panel Discussion - March 8, 2010

Surface Transportation Finance: The End of User Financing or a New Beginning?

highway traffic, photo courtesy of


Martin Wachs
Director, Transportation, Space, and Technology Program, RAND Corporation

Paul Sorensen
Operations Researcher, RAND Corporation

Brief Remarks from Congressional Staffers including:

Jim Tymon, Republican Staff Director,
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

Paul Schmid, Legislative Analyst,
Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)


Monday, March 8, 2010


1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


121 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

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About the Program

For decades, highway and public transportation improvements have been financed by allocations from the United States Highway Trust Fund. But revenue has fallen woefully short as the transportation user fees, the principal source of revenue for the fund, have not increased since 1993. As a result, the United States has had to shore up the trust fund with infusions of general fund revenue, a questionable policy as the United States aims to reduce petroleum consumption for reasons of sustainability and to promote energy independence. As Congress focuses on the pending reauthorization of the federal transportation bill, it should consider funding alternatives for the U.S. transportation system.

The briefing will include

  • an overview of the history and current status of the Highway Trust Fund
  • an examination of alternative funding streams; e.g., the strengths and limitations of mechanisms for adopting mileage-based road user fees
  • a discussion of a test of an alternative system of finance that may be included in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization.

Some of the work discussed will come from a study that was requested by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and prepared for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council.

Remarks from some congressional staffers will follow.

About the Speakers

Martin Wachs is director of the Transportation, Space, and Technology Program at RAND. Before joining RAND in 2005, he was professor of civil and environmental engineering and professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where was also director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. Prior to this, he spent 25 years at UCLA, where he served three terms as chairman of the Department of Urban Planning. Wachs served on the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) for nine years and was the TRB chairman in 2000.

Wachs has written extensively on transportation issues. His most recent work focuses on transportation finance in relation to planning and policy.

Paul Sorensen is an operations researcher who focuses on policy research in the areas of urban and regional planning, transportation, energy, environment, and emergency response. His technical expertise encompasses geographic information systems analysis, optimization modeling, and simulation and he also conducts qualitative policy analysis.. Sorensen has authored several resource papers for the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, chaired by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

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Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact the Office of Congressional Relations at or call (703) 413-1100, ext. 5395.