More than three-quarters (77 percent) of Americans think the federal government should increase spending to repair the nation's crumbling, bridges and transit systems, according to a report from Kansas City, Mo.-based HNTB Corp. The report, released March 31, found that most respondents do not think the current national gas tax, which traditionally supports federal highway and transit programs, raises enough money to cover the expenses, and they are willing to support large-scale infrastructure projects through increased tolls or taxes as long as they can directly reap or be assured of the benefits.
HNTB's latest "America THINKS" survey — which uses a random nationwide sample of 1,124 Americans to extrapolate the results as percentages of the entire U.S. population — found that 66 percent of Americans think most U.S. infrastructure is past its intended lifespan, and more than 4 in 5 (81 percent) would give the country's infrastructure a C grade or lower. More than half (57 percent) of Americans think that federal and state gas taxes are no longer enough to pay for the maintenance of our roads and bridges, an increase since the company conducted a similar survey in February 2009, when 51 percent felt that way.
Also, 74 percent of Americans would be willing to spend more on various transportation expenses or taxes if the money was put toward long-term transportation improvements. Close to half (47 percent) think the most pressing infrastructure issue is how to pay for improvements. Among respondents willing to spend more, the most popular expenditure would be a flat-rate increase: tolls on roads and bridges (44 percent). Less popular options would more likely be associated with a percentage hike, such as the gas tax (28 percent), sales tax (24 percent), income tax (15 percent) or property tax (11 percent).
More than half (58 percent) of Americans would pay more each month — an average of $13 per month — to reduce the time they spend in traffic by 20 percent. However, although a slight majority (57 percent) say that the gas tax should rise and fall along with the rate of inflation, 64 percent of Americans would not support a 10-cents-per-gallon bump in gas tax. At the same time, nearly 3 in 5 (58 percent) think investing in significant infrastructure projects is a better way out of the current recession than cutting expensiveprojects to pay down deficits.
In the end, several funding methods will probably be needed to repair the nation's roads, HNTB President Paul Yarossi said in a statement. "We need to move beyond the gas tax and expand other forms of funding, including tolling, public-private partnerships, a National Infrastructure Bank and programs that encourage private investment, such as TIFIA and revival of the Build America Bonds program," Yarossi says. "Investing in a modern, comprehensive system means shifting our thinking and looking at multiple modes of transportation supported by multiple modes of funding. Traditionally roads, rails and ports have been made to compete against each other. That's got to change."
Read the entire survey.