Video: RAND Congressional Briefing Series

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


  • Martin Wachs, Director, Transportation, Space, and Technology Program, RAND Corporation
  • Paul Sorensen, Operations Researcher, RAND Corporation
  • Paul Schmid, Legislative Analyst, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Jim Tymon, Republican Staff Director, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

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.

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