Despite record high gasoline prices across the U.S., a September nationwide survey by Republican and Democratic pollsters Ed Goeas and Celinda Lake found 69 percent of likely voters would willingly pay nine cents extra per day to help fund repairs to outdated roads and bridges and improve highway safety.
"The strong support of voters stretches across partisan, regional and demographic lines," Goeas and Lake said.
Nine cents per day is the amount of extra gas tax revenue the average motorist would have to pay to finance the six-year, $375 billion federal highway and mass transit program reauthorization bill that has been proposed by the bipartisan leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
The committee leadership’s proposed funding level is pegged to the federal share of highway and transit investments the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) reported to Congress earlier this year is needed to improve overall safety and mobility performance for the nation’s surface transportation system. The current investment level, the U.S. DOT reported, would not adequately maintain existing infrastructure conditions, or safety and congestion performance.
Echoing a finding in several other polls over the past year, Goeas and Lake found that six in ten voters agree the U.S. is facing a "transportation capacity crisis."
When told the U.S. DOT reports that approximately a third of the nation’s bridges and more than half of our roads need repair and that poor road conditions or outdated alignments are a factor in nearly 15,000 traffic deaths each year, 57 percent of voters say they would support an up to a five cents per gallon increase in the federal gas tax if the money raised was invested in highway and public transit improvements.
The federal gas tax was last raised exclusively for highway and mass transit improvements in 1982 by President Reagan, as part of an economic growth and jobs creation package. Since then, the federal highway user fee has been raised twice, in 1991 for a combination of transportation investment and deficit reduction, and in 1994 strictly for deficit reduction. The fee has been exclusively earmarked for highway and transit improvements since 1998.
"There is solid majority support [for a gas tax increase] among both Republicans and Democrats," according to Goeas and Lake. Fifty-one percent of Independents would support a gas tax increase, they said. The pollsters also found that support climbs to 62 percent among moderate and liberal voters and even holds at 52 percent among conservatives.
If their member of Congress voted in favor of such a gas tax proposal, 18 percent of voters say they would be more likely to vote for them in the 2004 election, while 32 percent would be less likely. And 47 percent said it would make no difference in their vote.
The transportation questions were included in the "Battleground Omnibus Poll," which conducted telephone interviews with 1,005 registered "likely" voters nationwide September 7 through 10, 2003. The questions were asked on behalf of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), American Public Transportation Association and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).