Economic Logic Blossoms in Hampton Roads Transportation Debate

Hampton Roads could wind up with an economically rational scheme for funding its ambitious road-building plans if the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority adopts recommendations emerging from a legislative subcommittee. As Kimball Payne with the Daily Press reports:

Raise the local gasoline tax more, but throw out the levy on home sellers.

Charge car buyers more, but don’t tax them on repairs.

Jack up the levy on car rentals, but do away with the $10 added to the local registration fee.

Responding to a public outcry during a series of public hearings, the HRTA is re-considering the $165 million-a-year tax mix approved by the General Assembly earlier this year. John McGlennon, chairman of the James City County Board of Supervisors, sums up the new logic: The revenues would be “more rationally tied to roads.”

The bulk of new taxes would come from a 13-cent-per gallon increase in the gasoline tax. That would move the tax mix towards a transparent, user-pays system that would reward motorists for driving less, rather than subsidizing those who drive more. A gasoline tax, combined with the congestion tolls that the HRTA is said to be eyeing, might be sufficient to persuade a number of drivers to telecommute, walk to work, or avail themselves of mass transit, thus easing the ever-escalating strain on the road network.

One drawback: The gasoline tax is living on borrowed time, as we have noted frequently on this blog. The HRTA would be well advised to give some thought to replacing that tax in the future through a Vehicle Miles Driven tax, an option being seriously considered by several states.

Of course, even an economically rational transportation-funding system is all for naught in the absence of Fundamental Change to scattered, disconnected, low-density human settlement patterns. But it’s a start. As motorists change their driving behavior, they may put more pressure on developers and municipalities to create more compact, more walkable, more transit-friendly communities.

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2 responses to “Economic Logic Blossoms in Hampton Roads Transportation Debate”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    13 cents… zowee

    they better use some of that money to build a new 8-lane freeway to North Carolina (gas stations).


    or how about this – a Cordon TOLL right on the Va/NC boundary that is approximately the difference between a tank of Va gas and NC gas.


    what they need – in my humble opinion… is to index the tax …. to inflation… for maintenance (or even add a tad if construction materials go up faster than core inflation).

    .. and use tolls for new construction…

  2. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    I can tell you right now that congestion tolls aren’t going to do anything except get people out of here. Which might relieve congestion, but at a major cost to the regional GDP.

    The wages here are low, as you have already seen in the economics studies you have done. The jobs are strictly nine to five. That’s why the cars are stacked up in the morning and evening. Even the port doesn’t run trucks 24/7.

    No one telecommutes because the old fashioned civilian employers believe only in the power of the cube, and the Navy generally doesn’t allow outside connections.

    No one walks to work, and you can’t get there from here on the crappy bus.

    So some of those fees and taxes would have to re-allocated to public transit and other congestion reducing measures that are not covered in the current law. Which opens up the door to impose what the ‘naysayers’ have been saying all along. Regional government.

    The end result of these schemes will be more people moving out for the higher paying jobs up north. The local aggravation pay just isn’t sufficient to overcome more inconveniences to our quality of life. A rust belt city in the making.

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