Cars on Interstate 280 in San Francisco. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A book of government cost-cutting ideas offered by the conservative Heritage Foundation on Thursday includes a big one for transportation: limit spending from the Highway Trust Fund only to the amount of revenue the fund collects from federal highway taxes.
Eight-five percent of those revenues come from gasoline and diesel fuel taxes, but there is some revenue from excise taxes on trucks, trailers, and truck tires.
Heritage says its idea would save $179 billion over 10 years.
The Heritage Budget Book said that “Congress diverts at least 25 percent of HTF dollars to non-road, non-bridge projects, including bicycle and nature paths, sidewalks, subways and buses, landscaping, and related low-priority and purely local activities.”
Instead, it said, Congress should limit trust fund spending to the roughly $39 billion collected from the gasoline, diesel, and other highway taxes “and refocus the federal highway program to encompass only Interstate Highway System maintenance and expansion, and a few other federal priorities, letting the states or private sector take over the other activities if they value them.”
This, the foundation said, “would free up valuable HTF money for road and bridge projects that will benefit those motorists paying for the program in the first place.”
The Congressional Budget Office noted in its annual forecast last week, federal spending on highways and mass transit has been running at about $53 billion a year.
CBO estimates that the revenues from federal taxes on gasoline and diesel which go into the Highway Trust Fund will stay at $38 billion to $39 billion a year from now until 2025.