We do. For too long, Idaho has been scrimping on basic maintenance, and over the years conditions have grown worse. As a result, Idaho’s roads are aging before their time and many of our bridges are considered functionally obsolete, according to the Idaho Transportation Department. The constant wear-and-tear of motorists, truckers and all those who use our roads has had a major impact. This includes out-of-state vehicles that also regularly use our highways and roads.
The majority of state funding comes from Idaho’s gas tax and registration fees. Yet Idaho’s gas tax has not increased since 1996, and registration fees have not been adjusted since 1997. Idaho’s truck registration structure was revamped in 2000, when the legislature repealed the ‘ton-mile’ tax. Since then truck tax collections have not accounted for actual miles traveled, and the registration revenues have dropped. Idaho’s 25-cent diesel tax is also an inefficient way to account for the costs big vehicles impose on the roads. Ultimately, the state’s ability to maintain and improve its roads has eroded over time, because funding hasn’t kept pace with inflation.
Today, passenger vehicles contribute the largest share of transportation funding. Passenger cars pay about 70 cents for every dollar going into the state’s Highway Distribution Account.
The fact is, cars are overpaying their equity share for our roads and bridges on the state system by about 26%, while combination trucks, which have a significantly bigger impact on roads than individual and family vehicles, pay about 27% less than their fair share of current costs.
Not under the current system. Since the 1990s, the Idaho Transportation Department has not had sufficient funds to maintain and support our state’s roads. Idaho now faces a serious shortage of funds to maintain the safe roads we all deserve.
The shortage was identified by the 2006 Forum on Transportation Investments and confirmed by the 2010 Governor’s Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding. The task force also reported that the state would need an additional $262 million annually just to operate, preserve and restore the existing transportation system.
We can address our transportation crisis by gaining support for a system that ensures everyone pays their fair share. The Governor’s Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding and the 2006 Forum on Transportation Investment laid important foundations for the enormous funding crisis caused by underinvestment (AAA participated in both efforts). Now, legislative leaders representing the Idaho House and Senate transportation committees and others are looking for ways to move the ball forward. We believe that everyone who uses Idaho’s roads should pay for what they use and that all costs should be spread fairly and not fall heavily on just one group, such as motorists. The 2010 Cost Allocation study includes a framework that gives transportation planners a tool to show how various fees and taxes affect equity among highway users.
Since 1920 – nearly as long as Idaho bridges and roads have been around – AAA Idaho has advocated for our members. We believe we speak for our members and for all Idahoans when we say that safe, well-maintained roads are good for drivers, good for the economy and good for Idaho. Now, with the integrity of Idaho roads at risk, AAA is reaching out to its members and to all citizens with information, asking for their participation in solving this important public transportation problem.
Yes. According to the Idaho Transportation Department’s Five-Year Investment Plan, one-third of Idaho’s State Highway System bridges are over 50 years old. They were only designed to last 40 to 60 years before being replaced.
And yet the funding to replace them isn’t there. With the current, inadequate level of funding, many of our bridges – built in the 1950s and 60s – would have to last 120 years before being replaced. That simply isn’t acceptable.
Yes. Idaho has about 12,000 lane miles of paved roads throughout the State Highway System. These roads were built to last 20 years, meaning the Idaho Transportation Department has to pave 600 lane miles per year just to maintain our roads. To prevent a larger number of our roads from falling into greater disrepair, a fair and effective funding model needs to be developed.
Idaho’s economy and growth are intertwined with its roads and bridges, and there will likely be more and more vehicles using our roads in the future as the economy improves. As reported by the Idaho Business Review in June 2013 Idaho Transportation Department director Brian Ness delivered an important message to state lawmakers about the many ways our roads affect Idahoans.
“Why would you not vote to provide every citizen a safe and mobile transportation system … why would you not vote for a 25 percent reduction in fatalities and serious injuries that could save every man, woman and child in Idaho $300 a year? … Why would you not vote to add an additional 4,000 jobs to our economy by rebuilding our system? Why would you not vote to put us back to work, to spend a dollar right now to fix our roads while they’re in good condition, rather than pass on a debt to our children …”
According to the 2010 Idaho Cost Allocation study, a majority of pavement costs are due to impacts of heavy axle loads. That same study shows that the equity ratio for 80,000-pound trucks for federal and state programs is .73, which means they are underpaying their equity share by .27. But for vehicles 8,000 pounds and lighter (cars and pickups), the federal and state equity ratio is 1.26. The infographic below shows how much different groups are paying relative to the impact they have on Idaho’s roads and bridges.
This situation was made worse with the 2000 repeal of the weight distance tax and the registration tax structure that followed.
Also, as noted in independent research conducted by Battelle in 2010, truck tax collections have been seriously out of kilter. The Battelle study shows the loss of revenues from that act alone has accounted for an $11.6 million loss annually.
Yes, Idaho’s three cost allocation studies – 2002, 2007 and 2010 – demonstrate a growing equity gap between how cars and combination trucks contribute to Idaho’s transportation funding. The latest study also shows that the gap between single unit and combination trucks is growing. In other words, many Idaho drivers are being asked to pay more than their fair share. Meanwhile, many large tractor-trailer combination trucks, especially those from out-of-state, are able to use Idaho’s roads and contribute far less per mile of driving than the rest of us.
A 2004 study by the University of Idaho pointed to ‘curious cost disparities’ in the registration system for trucks following the repeal of Idaho’s ‘ton-mile’ or weight-distance tax and concluded that the replacement registration system should be evaluated relative to revenue generation and efficiency.
Idaho has long struggled with adequately funding its roads and bridges, and the situation became even worse after 2000. Waiting will make the problem even harder to resolve. We must take action now or risk paying billions of dollars more down the road, a situation we all want to avoid.
According to a 2008 report created by the Idaho Transportation Department’s Economic and Research section, there are more than 100,000 trucks registered in our state weighing up to 60,000 pounds. And this is just at the county level – there are about 25,000 trucks registered at the state level.
But consider this: approximately 700,000 foreign based (out-of-state) trucks used Idaho roads in 2008 alone, traveling more than 675 million miles. These foreign trucks put the most miles on our roads, yet they pay the lowest per mile fees under Idaho’s current registration system. In effect, these trucks get the best deal, paying far less than the amount of road they use and the damage they inflict.