Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Gas Tax Losers

Metropolitan Areas Get Short End of Federal Gas Tax Funds

Summary. As Congress prepares to reauthorize a six-year transportation bill worth close to $300 billion, a first ever investigation of metro area transportation spending by the Environmental Working Group found that commuters in 176 metropolitan areas paid a total of $20 billion more in federal gas taxes than they received in federal highway trust fund money for both transit and highways from 1998 through 2003. Taxpayers in fifty-four metropolitan areas lost an estimated 100 million dollars or more during the 6-year period analyzed.

These disparities at the local level have received relatively little consideration on Capitol Hill although many members of Congress are fighting to ensure that states receive federal transportation funds equivalent to what the states contribute in gas taxes. Local transportation spending, however, has a far greater impact on congestion, air pollution, and sprawl.

The top money losers were drivers in Los Angeles/Riverside, where there was an estimated $1.16 billion shortfall in federal highway trust fund expenditures compared to gas taxes paid during the six years examined. Commuters in Dallas/Fort Worth were the second biggest losers with an estimated six year shortfall of about $1.1 billion, followed by Phoenix at an estimated $904 million, Atlanta at $787 million, and Detroit/Ann Arbor with an estimated $639 million disparity between gas taxes paid and federal highway trust fund money spent in the metro area. 

Gas Tax Losers: Metro areas with the biggest gap between gas tax payments and transportation project spending

 

Rank Metropolitan Statistical Area Pennies
Returned
on the Dollar
Gas Tax Dollars Lost
1998-2003
1 Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, CA 87¢ $ -1,162,422,000
2 Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 75¢ $ -1,099,163,000
3 Phoenix-Mesa, AZ 62¢ $ -904,079,000
4 Atlanta, GA 80¢ $ -787,552,000
5 Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint, MI 83¢ $ -639,428,000
6 New Orleans, LA 53¢ $ -468,159,000
7 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 72¢ $ -461,958,000
8 Orlando, FL 58¢ $ -432,986,000
9 Kansas City, MO-KS 74¢ $ -386,689,000
10 San Diego, CA 80¢ $ -346,174,000
11 Cleveland-Akron, OH 83¢ $ -327,347,000
12 San Antonio, TX 75¢ $ -312,445,000
13 Sacramento-Yolo, CA 74¢ $ -308,448,000
14 Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, TX 92¢ $ -292,032,000
15 Tulsa, OK 63¢ $ -287,455,000
16 Tucson, AZ 57¢ $ -275,790,000
17 Richmond-Petersburg, VA 66¢ $ -271,763,000
18 Oklahoma City, OK 75¢ $ -265,624,000
19 Austin-San Marcos, TX 76¢ $ -262,915,000
20 Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, SC 72¢ $ -247,168,000
21 Cincinnati-Hamilton, OH-KY-IN 82¢ $ -244,874,000
22 Indianapolis, IN 83¢ $ -231,176,000
23 Denver-Boulder-Greeley, CO 86¢ $ -219,581,000
24 Fort Myers-Cape Coral, FL 32¢ $ -213,901,000
25 Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 53¢ $ -204,433,000

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from U.S. DOT data and U.S. Census 2000 data.

Taxpayers in an estimated 158 metropolitan areas received 90 cents or less for each dollar they paid in gas taxes. Some 104 metro areas, including Dallas, Orlando, Tucson and New Orleans, received 75 cents or less; sixty-nine metro areas got back less than two thirds of what their drivers paid in gas taxes.

 

The result of this funding shortfall is increased traffic congestion, fewer transit options, and more sprawl in outlying areas that is paid for by the suburban drivers who are increasingly stuck in traffic in and around our nation's cities.

A 2003 study by the Texas Transportation Institute found that overall congestion and commuter time stuck in traffic has increased, often substantially, in virtually all of the metro areas identified in this study that were net losers in gas tax funds. Large metropolitan areas that were net winners in gas tax expenditures were able to limit increases in congestion far more effectively. In particular, metropolitan areas with diversified transportation options that include significant rail systems such as Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York experienced only marginal increases in the percent of the overall transportation grid congested during peak travel times.

Very few metropolitan areas with large diversified transit systems (including rail) were substantial losers of gas tax funds. In contrast, some of the biggest losers are sprawling southern and western cities with transportation systems largely designed to move cars, not people. Examples include: Phoenix, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Tampa/ St Petersburg, Orlando, San Diego, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City.

In 1998, the Congress amended federal transportation law to ensure that for major highway programs, every state would receive at least a 90.5 percent return on its share of highway trust fund contributions (Brookings 2003). No similar provision, however, applies to how states spend this money once they receive it.

The spending patterns outlined in this study are an outmoded legacy of a bygone era—the Interstate highway-building phase of the last century. This legacy is perpetuated by the entrenched political preference of many state 'transportation' departments to remain 'highway departments' attuned to the priorities of state legislatures that are dominated by rural interests. This politically powerful system places a premium on building new highways—principally in rural areas where new road building remains possible, of course—as job-creating, public works projects.

Of the 256 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed, 176 were losers, meaning they received less back in highway trust expenditures than they paid in gas taxes, and only 89 were winners.

In many states, including Texas, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, California, and Louisiana, virtually every large metropolitan area is a major money loser, while rural areas, in total, are significant winners. Of the 43 states where non-metro analyses were possible, rural areas were winners in 29, for a total of 10.8 billion dollars. In 14 states, rural regions were slight losers, paying $2.9 billion more in gas taxes than they received over the six years analyzed.

Recommendations. Gas tax revenues should go to diversify transportation options in sprawling metro areas. Money to support this diversification should not come at the expense of areas with the greatest need, such as New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. This strategy would solve the most pressing transportation problems facing those who pay the vast majority of that tax: people living in developed metropolitan areas where most of the driving is done, where most of the gas tax is collected, and where most of the transportation investment is needed to cope with overcrowded roads and polluted air.

To ensure that gas taxes are fairly spent and not used to subsidize new highway expansion at the expense of areas with the greatest need, Congress should adopt a provision in the current federal transportation law requiring that metropolitan statistical areas receive at least 95 percent of the gas tax revenues that they pay to the federal highway trust fund.

Equity for states but not localities. The disparities in federal funding for metro areas are inconsistent with federal transportation policy, which has focused on ensuring that states receive roughly the same amount of money for highway projects that they pay into the system. This policy has been driven by members of Congress and others from so-called "donor states' who have argued that their states are not receiving their fair share of federal transportation dollars. Specifically, these advocates have argued that their states were paying more gas taxes into the Highway Trust Fund than they were receiving in return. The Highway Trust Fund provides money for roads and transit.

In 1998, when Congress reauthorized the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), donor states were rewarded with a minimum guarantee that for major highway programs, every state would receive at least a 90.5 percent return on its share of highway trust fund contributions (Brookings 2003). This guarantee helped to achieve greater equity.

In the current debate, several members of the House of Representatives, including majority leader, Tom Delay (R-TX), have called for increasing the minimum guarantee to 95 percent per state (Transportation Weekly 2004). According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there were 17 states that received less in highway funds than they paid into the highway account between fiscal years 1998 and 2003 (the FHWA did not analyze transit revenues or expenditures) (FHWA 2004).

However, once the federal money gets to the states, that funding is much less evenly distributed, as EWG's analysis shows.

Other Research Shows Similar Disparities. EWG's study builds on several recent reports that have shown that state transportation funding (composed of both state and federal dollars) favors outlying areas at the expense of metropolitan areas with the greatest transportation needs.

  • Colorado — The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) recently reported that for every dollar Denver metro residents contribute in gas taxes and car-related taxes, the Colorado Transportation Commission provides only 54 cents in return to address transportation needs (DRCOG 2004). The DRCOG's board of directors recently passed a resolution in support of a state transportation plan in which each of the state's metropolitan planning regions would receive at least 90 percent of the funds contributed by the regions for transportation spending (DRCOG 2003).
  • Georgia — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that "since July 1999, [Georgia] has spent roughly $620 for every resident in the 13 metro Atlanta counties, where commuters endure the state's worst congestion and breathe the dirtiest air. The rest of the state reaped about $1,000 per resident for road widenings and maintenance, transit operations and other transportation improvements' (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 2003).
  • Ohio — A report by the Brookings Institution showed that compared to rural areas, metropolitan areas in Ohio receive less transportation funding (Brookings 2003).
  • Pennsylvania — Another study by Brookings reported that of $8.5 billion in Pennsylvania's highway and bridge funding that could be classified by location, 58 percent was spent in outer or rural townships while 42 percent flowed to cities, towns, and more established townships (Brookings 2004).
  • Surface Transportation Policy Project — In 1996, STPP's pioneering report Getting a Fair Share found that expenditures of federal highway funds in fiscal year 1995 averaged just over $72 per person nationwide. However, in urban areas with populations of more than 50,000, spending was only $54 per person. Spending in rural areas was $98 per person and spending in "non-urbanized areas" — cities and towns with between 5,000 and 50,000 people that are primarily suburbs on the urban fringe — averaged $115 per person (STPP 1998).

What's at Stake. As the Brookings Institution wrote, "in economic terms, resources generated in large part in older Pennsylvania are hastening the established communities' own economic decline, to the extent they subsidize roads that decentralize job and population growth. As an investment strategy, the state's road spending makes even less sense, as it pours money into new capacity in rural areas even as the conditions of existing roads deteriorate in urban areas. In sum, Pennsylvania's road spending makes sense neither fiscally nor strategically—and is likely harming established communities'" (Brookings 2004).

The same could be said of other metropolitan areas where scarce transportation dollars leave town never to return.

 

Metro Areas with Large Transit Systems Get a Greater Share of Federal Tax Dollars.

MSA ID MSA
Name
Gas Tax Paid to Federal Highway Accounts (in $000) Highway Acct Spending (in $000) Gas Tax Paid to Federal Transit Account (in $000) Transit Acct Spending (in $000) Gain/
Loss
Pennies Returned on the Dollar
Hwy only Hwy & Transit
0040 Abilene, TX 95557 71935 14334 3589 -34367 $0.75 $0.69
0120 Albany, GA 94840 31024 14226 2137 -75905 $0.33 $0.30
0160 Albany-
Schenectady-
Troy, NY
437276 522181 65591 101497 120811 $1.19 $1.24
0200 Albuquerque, NM 608775 472873 91316 24304 -202915 $0.78 $0.71
0220 Alexandria, LA 85119 197880 12768 359 100352 $2.32 $2.03
0240 Allentown-
Bethlehem-
Easton, PA
372176 387949 55826 14201 -25852 $1.04 $0.94
0280 Altoona, PA 77303 134293 11595 2900 48295 $1.74 $1.54
0320 Amarillo, TX 165898 121959 24885 3591 -65233 $0.74 $0.66
0380 Anchorage, AK 163597 1004495 24540 19708 836067 $6.14 $5.44
0450 Anniston, AL 90978 77031 13647 0 -27594 $0.85 $0.74
0460 Appleton-
Oshkosh-
Neenah, WI
216318 175414 32448 1023 -72328 $0.81 $0.71
0480 Asheville, NC 156310 314701 23447 1438 136381 $2.01 $1.76
0500 Athens, GA 132372 50111 19856 1928 -100189 $0.38 $0.34
0520 Atlanta, GA 3401122 2616962 510168 506777 -787552 $0.77 $0.80
0580 Auburn-
Opelika, AL
92854 90250 13928 642 -15890 $0.97 $0.85
0600 Augusta-
Aiken, GA-SC
380668 319460 57100 4221 -114087 $0.84 $0.74
0640 Austin-
San Marcos, TX
956014 742180 143402 94321 -262915 $0.78 $0.76
0680 Bakersfield, CA 313293 432140 46994 22725 94577 $1.38 $1.26
0760 Baton Rouge, LA 417563 385814 62634 5887 -88497 $0.92 $0.82
0840 Beaumont-
Port Arthur, TX
278119 201153 41718 1514 -117169 $0.72 $0.63
0860 Bellingham, WA 92083 101444 13812 8158 3707 $1.10 $1.04
0870 Benton Harbor, MI 99030 164255 14855 1230 51601 $1.66 $1.45
0880 Billings, MT 112265 116764 16840 842 -11499 $1.04 $0.91
0920 Biloxi-
Gulfport-
Pascagoula, MS
313621 200181 47043 4147 -156336 $0.64 $0.57
0960 Binghamton, NY 125245 288350 18787 6378 150696 $2.30 $2.05
1000 Birmingham, AL 721746 653808 108262 28075 -148125 $0.91 $0.82
1010 Bismarck, ND 80357 147071 12054 3085 57745 $1.83 $1.62
1020 Bloomington, IN 87889 53370 13183 1777 -45925 $0.61 $0.55
1040 Bloomington-
Normal, IL
75939 150199 11391 181 63050 $1.98 $1.72
1080 Boise City, ID 328312 358312 49247 5279 -13969 $1.09 $0.96
1240 Brownsville-
Harlingen-
San Benito, TX
185216 279951 27782 4970 71923 $1.51 $1.34
1260 Bryan-
College Station, TX
111188 80910 16678 0 -46957 $0.73 $0.63
1280 Buffalo-
Niagara Falls, NY
564335 535765 84650 38143 -75077 $0.95 $0.88
1320 Canton-Massillon, OH 235899 119931 35385 14685 -136667 $0.51 $0.50
1350 Casper, WY 118212 118552 17732 0 -17392 $1.00 $0.87
1360 Cedar Rapids, IA 129913 53267 19487 8997 -87136 $0.41 $0.42
1400 Champaign-
Urbana, IL
90988 79514 13648 8973 -16150 $0.87 $0.85
1440 Charleston-
North Charleston, SC
419578 682966 62937 6451 206902 $1.63 $1.43
1480 Charleston, WV 176937 205833 26541 10709 13065 $1.16 $1.06
1520 Charlotte-
Gastonia-
Rock Hill, NC-SC
995261 937536 149289 56241 -150772 $0.94 $0.87
1540 Charlottesville, VA 111644 71811 16747 4540 -52040 $0.64 $0.59
1560 Chattanooga, TN-GA 369518 352884 55428 16879 -55183 $0.95 $0.87
1580 Cheyenne, WY 140345 104294 21052 854 -56249 $0.74 $0.65
1602 Chicago-
Gary-
Kenosha,
IL-IN-WI
4206591 3333816 630989 1624316 120553 $0.79 $1.02
1620 Chico-Paradise, CA 123223 70472 18483 87 -71148 $0.57 $0.50
1642 Cincinnati-
Hamilton,
OH-KY-IN
1200392 1074693 180059 60885 -244874 $0.90 $0.82
1660 Clarksville-
Hopkinsville,
TN-KY
144525 113938 21679 2272 -49995 $0.79 $0.70
1692 Cleveland-Akron, OH 1668090 1351254 250214 239702 -327347 $0.81 $0.83
1720 Colorado Springs, CO 275703 198118 41355 23740 -95201 $0.72 $0.70
1740 Columbia, MO 106708 51106 16006 4751 -66858 $0.48 $0.46
1760 Columbia, SC 420482 309227 63072 537 -173790 $0.74 $0.64
1800 Columbus, GA-AL 215395 157552 32309 5005 -85148 $0.73 $0.66
1840 Columbus, OH 897462 916991 134619 63026 -52064 $1.02 $0.95
1880 Corpus Christi, TX 259391 196401 38909 16348 -85550 $0.76 $0.71
1890 Corvallis, OR 48533 10494 7280 0 -45319 $0.22 $0.19
1900 Cumberland,
MD-WV
63605 91918 9541 0 18773 $1.45 $1.26
1922 Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 3858417 2500289 578763 837728 -1099163 $0.65 $0.75
1950 Danville, VA 77613 64911 11642 563 -23780 $0.84 $0.73
1960 Davenport-Moline-
Rock Island,
IA-IL
209989 201549 31498 8934 -31004 $0.96 $0.87
2000 Dayton-
Springfield, OH
552886 433482 82933 106323 -96014 $0.78 $0.85
2020 Daytona Beach, FL 297363 317623 44604 28421 4076 $1.07 $1.01
2030 Decatur, AL 116337 84446 17451 0 -49342 $0.73 $0.63
2040 Decatur, IL 60890 51054 9133 1540 -17429 $0.84 $0.75
2082 Denver-
Boulder-
Greeley, CO
1412791 1081792 211919 323336 -219581 $0.77 $0.86
2120 Des Moines, IA 303408 451341 45511 16995 119417 $1.49 $1.34
2162 Detroit-
Ann Arbor-
Flint, MI
3213659 2897449 482049 158831 -639428 $0.90 $0.83
2180 Dothan, AL 110223 65422 16533 2044 -59291 $0.59 $0.53
2190 Dover, DE 73328 154852 10999 0 70525 $2.11 $1.84
2200 Dubuque, IA 56409 76890 8461 1144 13165 $1.36 $1.20
2240 Duluth-Superior,
MN-WI
127047 215556 19057 7751 77204 $1.70 $1.53
2290 Eau Claire, WI 89541 135081 13431 1994 34104 $1.51 $1.33
2320 El Paso, TX 405528 369308 60829 30493 -66557 $0.91 $0.86
2330 Elkhart-
Goshen, IN
124608 71009 18691 458 -71832 $0.57 $0.50
2335 Elmira, NY 43749 86215 6562 6346 42251 $1.97 $1.84
2340 Enid, OK 50038 9375 7506 0 -48170 $0.19 $0.16
2360 Erie, PA 158485 325325 23773 10134 153201 $2.05 $1.84
2400 Eugene-
Springfield, OR
205149 172709 30772 23905 -39307 $0.84 $0.83
2440 Evansville-
Henderson, IN-KY
224493 230516 33674 1441 -26211 $1.03 $0.90
2520 Fargo-Moorhead,
ND-MN
132884 219153 19933 1356 67692 $1.65 $1.44
2560 Fayetteville, NC 179283 153004 26893 5396 -47776 $0.85 $0.77
2580 Fayetteville-
Springdale-
Rogers, AR
273088 262621 40963 1070 -50360 $0.96 $0.84
2620 Flagstaff, AZ-UT 74528 197347 11179 0 111640 $2.65 $2.30
2650 Florence, AL 119776 114367 17966 1511 -21865 $0.95 $0.84
2655 Florence, SC 94446 72087 14167 5128 -31397 $0.76 $0.71
2670 Fort Collins-
Loveland, CO
141307 53921 21196 7974 -100608 $0.38 $0.38
2700 Fort Myers-
Cape Coral, FL
274932 95620 41240 6652 -213901 $0.35 $0.32
2710 Fort Pierce-
Port St. Lucie, FL
193317 145053 28998 3508 -73754 $0.75 $0.67
2720 Fort Smith, AR-OK 177428 216927 26614 0 12884 $1.22 $1.06
2750 Fort Walton Beach, FL 98370 66723 14756 1924 -44479 $0.68 $0.61
2760 Fort Wayne, IN 365915 309143 54887 7552 -104107 $0.84 $0.75
2840 Fresno, CA 432153 476185 64823 17890 -2901 $1.10 $0.99
2880 Gadsden, AL 83857 54300 12579 0 -42136 $0.65 $0.56
2900 Gainesville, FL 125575 112909 18836 7265 -24237 $0.90 $0.83
2975 Glens Falls, NY 62378 77340 9357 1535 7139 $1.24 $1.10
2980 Goldsboro, NC 70123 60056 10518 331 -20254 $0.86 $0.75
2985 Grand Forks, ND-MN 69349 81006 10402 186 1440 $1.17 $1.02
2995 Grand Junction, CO 65846 43747 9877 985 -30991 $0.66 $0.59
3000 Grand Rapids-
Muskegon-
Holland, MI
628945 660654 94342 24533 -38099 $1.05 $0.95
3040 Great Falls, MT 69023 104188 10353 1646 26457 $1.51 $1.33
3080 Green Bay, WI 137315 90921 20597 12373 -54618 $0.66 $0.65
3120 Greensboro--
Winston-
Salem--High Point, NC
836551 766107 125483 15421 -180505 $0.92 $0.81
3150 Greenville, NC 86450 60402 12967 0 -39015 $0.70 $0.61
3160 Greenville-
Spartanburg-
Anderson, SC
772501 635775 115875 5433 -247168 $0.82 $0.72
3240 Harrisburg-
Lebanon-
Carlisle, PA
378757 508080 56813 6681 79191 $1.34 $1.18
3285 Hattiesburg, MS 95003 86337 14250 0 -22916 $0.91 $0.79
3290 Hickory-
Morganton-
Lenoir, NC
227218 158239 34083 0 -103061 $0.70 $0.61
3320 Honolulu, HI 295604 671949 44341 105714 437718 $2.27 $2.29
3350 Houma, LA 125411 118172 18812 305 -25747 $0.94 $0.82
3362 Houston-
Galveston-
Brazoria, TX
3257940 2918962 488691 535638 -292032 $0.90 $0.92
3400 Huntington-
Ashland,
WV-KY-OH
224226 247775 33634 6065 -4021 $1.11 $0.98
3440 Huntsville, AL 276582 228958 41487 2405 -86706 $0.83 $0.73
3480 Indianapolis, IN 1191821 1097220 178773 42198 -231176 $0.92 $0.83
3500 Iowa City, IA 73329 32634 10999 2146 -49549 $0.45 $0.41
3520 Jackson, MI 90989 52806 13648 2238 -49594 $0.58 $0.53
3560 Jackson, MS 362708 317267 54406 8783 -91064 $0.87 $0.78
3580 Jackson, TN 76743 103394 11511 2809 17948 $1.35 $1.20
3600 Jacksonville, FL 607877 799535 91182 70944 171420 $1.32 $1.25
3605 Jacksonville, NC 81478 69094 12222 0 -24606 $0.85 $0.74
3610 Jamestown, NY 68030 126968 10205 0 48734 $1.87 $1.62
3620 Janesville-
Beloit, WI
92047 82255 13807 2778 -20821 $0.89 $0.80
3660 Johnson City-
Kingsport-
Bristol, TN-VA
373104 226272 55966 1540 -201258 $0.61 $0.53
3680 Johnstown, PA 136250 195468 20437 4780 43560 $1.43 $1.28
3700 Jonesboro, AR 73661 77752 11049 0 -6959 $1.06 $0.92
3710 Joplin, MO 123425 73656 18514 0 -68282 $0.60 $0.52
3720 Kalamazoo-
Battle Creek, MI
276161 188758 41424 9811 -119016 $0.68 $0.63
3760 Kansas City, MO-KS 1318396 1084566 197759 44901 -386689 $0.82 $0.74
3810 Killeen-
Temple, TX
212644 96353 31897 1133 -147055 $0.45 $0.40
3840 Knoxville, TN 539872 466730 80981 13296 -140827 $0.86 $0.77
3850 Kokomo, IN 78521 32859 11778 600 -56841 $0.42 $0.37
3870 La Crosse, WI-MN 74017 66181 11103 2821 -16118 $0.89 $0.81
3880 Lafayette, LA 259568 211647 38935 1761 -85096 $0.82 $0.71
3920 Lafayette, IN 128541 147844 19281 7247 7269 $1.15 $1.05
3960 Lake Charles, LA 128168 103084 19225 0 -44310 $0.80 $0.70
3980 Lakeland-
Winter Haven, FL
268897 197327 40334 9091 -102813 $0.73 $0.67
4000 Lancaster, PA 259062 207498 38859 4096 -86327 $0.80 $0.71
4040 Lansing-
East Lansing, MI
272495 327684 40874 18434 32748 $1.20 $1.10
4080 Laredo, TX 95852 156012 14378 6029 51811 $1.63 $1.47
4100 Las Cruces, NM 131908 163949 19786 1376 13631 $1.24 $1.09
4120 Las Vegas, NV-AZ 955899 983058 143385 82875 -33351 $1.03 $0.97
4150 Lawrence, KS 68564 20724 10285 3042 -55083 $0.30 $0.30
4200 Lawton, OK 84280 49211 12642 0 -47711 $0.58 $0.51
4280 Lexington, KY 400873 418786 60131 10286 -31933 $1.04 $0.93
4320 Lima, OH 86193 52549 12929 0 -46573 $0.61 $0.53
4360 Lincoln, NE 194690 121878 29203 6272 -95743 $0.63 $0.57
4400 Little Rock-
North Little Rock, AR
520077 388103 78012 17142 -192844 $0.75 $0.68
4420 Longview-
Marshall, TX
157787 140833 23668 0 -40622 $0.89 $0.78
4472 Los Angeles-
Riverside-
Orange County, CA
8061846 6817169 1209277 1291533 -1162422 $0.85 $0.87
4520 Louisville, KY-IN 828422 753897 124263 51298 -147491 $0.91 $0.85
4600 Lubbock, TX 185953 130274 27893 5344 -78228 $0.70 $0.63
4640 Lynchburg, VA 150087 119399 22513 3989 -49212 $0.80 $0.71
4680 Macon, GA 267704 286364 40156 0 -21496 $1.07 $0.93
4720 Madison, WI 266887 196357 40033 24598 -85965 $0.74 $0.72
4800 Mansfield, OH 100795 202868 15119 1201 88155 $2.01 $1.76
4880 McAllen-
Edinburg-
Mission, TX
305400 309781 45810 4621 -36807 $1.01 $0.90
4890 Medford-
Ashland, OR
114802 149826 17220 648 18451 $1.31 $1.14
4900 Melbourne-
Titusville-
Palm Bay, FL
290246 131741 43537 7058 -194984 $0.45 $0.42
4920 Memphis, TN-AR-MS 802471 830630 120371 71075 -21136 $1.04 $0.98
4940 Merced, CA 95821 136623 14373 2270 28699 $1.43 $1.26
4992 Miami-
Fort Lauderdale, FL
917852 561136 137678 390188 -104206 $0.61 $0.90
5082 Milwaukee-
Racine, WI
974667 994316 146200 78214 -48337 $1.02 $0.96
5120 Minneapolis-
St. Paul,
MN-WI
1418181 1298734 212727 408294 76120 $0.92 $1.05
5140 Missoula, MT 83325 107673 12499 6049 17898 $1.29 $1.19
5160 Mobile, AL 413692 438668 62054 13415 -23663 $1.06 $0.95
5170 Modesto, CA 222534 131304 33380 6148 -118463 $0.59 $0.54
5200 Monroe, LA 98876 66953 14831 2486 -44269 $0.68 $0.61
5240 Montgomery, AL 249834 227835 37475 10444 -49031 $0.91 $0.83
5280 Muncie, IN 89082 79460 13362 6018 -16966 $0.89 $0.83
5330 Myrtle Beach, SC 170925 319984 25639 140 123559 $1.87 $1.63
5345 Naples, FL 151609 109419 22741 0 -64932 $0.72 $0.63
5360 Nashville, TN 921555 861431 138233 38109 -160248 $0.93 $0.85
5560 New Orleans, LA 869517 445209 130428 86577 -468159 $0.51 $0.53
5602 New York-Northern New Jersey-
Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
7864762 9046366 1179714 6876710 6878600 $1.15 $1.76
5720 Norfolk-
Virginia Beach-
Newport News, VA-NC
1025261 1909736 153789 68024 798710 $1.86 $1.68
5790 Ocala, FL 155573 108363 23336 1595 -68950 $0.70 $0.61
5800 Odessa-
Midland, TX
174008 102028 26101 0 -98081 $0.59 $0.51
5880 Oklahoma City, OK 914159 768114 137124 17544 -265624 $0.84 $0.75
5920 Omaha, NE-IA 528269 650014 79240 22213 64718 $1.23 $1.11
5960 Orlando, FL 907132 515599 136070 94617 -432986 $0.57 $0.58
5990 Owensboro, KY 75369 64885 11305 0 -21789 $0.86 $0.75
6015 Panama City, FL 86119 52031 12918 3035 -43972 $0.60 $0.56
6020 Parkersburg-
Marietta, WV-OH
99395 306717 14909 24 192437 $3.09 $2.68
6080 Pensacola, FL 222774 339052 33416 5371 88232 $1.52 $1.34
6120 Peoria-Pekin, IL 179440 201253 26916 6076 973 $1.12 $1.00
6162 Philadelphia-
Wilmington-
Atlantic City, PA-NJ-DE-MD
3390739 3205061 508611 667226 -27063 $0.95 $0.99
6200 Phoenix-
Mesa, AZ
2062121 1310226 309318 157135 -904079 $0.64 $0.62
6240 Pine Bluff, AR 65932 138273 9890 0 62451 $2.10 $1.82
6280 Pittsburgh, PA 1399765 1625257 209965 434153 449681 $1.16 $1.28
6340 Pocatello, ID 55861 62700 8379 1973 434 $1.12 $1.01
6442 Portland-
Salem, OR-WA
1341407 1127767 201211 440282 25431 $0.84 $1.02
6520 Provo-Orem, UT 210081 202750 31512 0 -38843 $0.97 $0.84
6560 Pueblo, CO 74920 76100 11238 1104 -8954 $1.02 $0.90
6580 Punta Gorda, FL 93326 87746 13999 1354 -18225 $0.94 $0.83
6640 Raleigh-
Durham-
Chapel Hill, NC
780191 913432 117029 43144 59356 $1.17 $1.07
6660 Rapid City, SD 67749 150170 10162 999 73257 $2.22 $1.94
6680 Reading, PA 210505 196321 31576 14842 -30918 $0.93 $0.87
6690 Redding, CA 98788 149919 14818 2322 38635 $1.52 $1.34
6720 Reno, NV 213793 335150 32069 20280 109568 $1.57 $1.45
6740 Richland-
Kennewick-
Pasco, WA
97687 83993 14653 1746 -26600 $0.86 $0.76
6760 Richmond-
Petersburg, VA
686978 482128 103047 36133 -271763 $0.70 $0.66
6800 Roanoke, VA 176023 116226 26403 1503 -84697 $0.66 $0.58
6820 Rochester, MN 60141 57592 9021 3245 -8325 $0.96 $0.88
6840 Rochester, NY 531681 495646 79752 50210 -65577 $0.93 $0.89
6880 Rockford, IL 187628 132891 28144 5771 -77110 $0.71 $0.64
6895 Rocky Mount, NC 86868 50672 13030 0 -49226 $0.58 $0.51
6922 Sacramento-
Yolo, CA
1028544 721008 154282 153370 -308448 $0.70 $0.74
6960 Saginaw-Bay City-
Midland, MI
245654 297729 36848 7549 22776 $1.21 $1.08
6980 St. Cloud, MN 76419 95018 11463 2539 9676 $1.24 $1.11
7000 St. Joseph, MO 78385 42539 11758 2649 -44955 $0.54 $0.50
7040 St. Louis, MO-IL 1845196 2264831 276779 429996 572851 $1.23 $1.27
7120 Salinas, CA 188674 201776 28301 15969 770 $1.07 $1.00
7160 Salt Lake City-
Ogden, UT
886132 713002 132920 448917 142868 $0.80 $1.14
7200 San Angelo, TX 79189 82758 11878 672 -7637 $1.05 $0.92
7240 San Antonio, TX 1097728 818075 164659 131868 -312445 $0.75 $0.75
7320 San Diego, CA 1533304 1278136 229996 138990 -346174 $0.83 $0.80
7362 San Francisco-
Oakland-
San Jose, CA
3862146 3880115 579322 2518504 1957151 $1.00 $1.44
7460 San Luis Obispo-
Atascadero-
Paso Robles, CA
147309 172191 22096 297 3083 $1.17 $1.02
7480 Santa Barbara-
Santa Maria-
Lompoc, CA
213284 144933 31993 22505 -77839 $0.68 $0.68
7490 Santa Fe, NM 134704 153984 20206 4938 4013 $1.14 $1.03
7510 Sarasota-
Bradenton, FL
380689 220948 57103 12411 -204433 $0.58 $0.53
7520 Savannah, GA 242750 312601 36412 4868 38307 $1.29 $1.14
7560 Scranton--Wilkes-
Barre--Hazleton, PA
368436 422674 55265 13295 12268 $1.15 $1.03
7602 Seattle-Tacoma-
Bremerton, WA
1967750 1899869 295163 720919 357875 $0.97 $1.16
7610 Sharon, PA 71554 94278 10733 0 11992 $1.32 $1.15
7620 Sheboygan, WI 67758 44197 10164 2969 -30756 $0.65 $0.61
7640 Sherman-
Denison, TX
86562 143737 12984 399 44590 $1.66 $1.45
7680 Shreveport-
Bossier City, LA
272080 364545 40812 8427 60080 $1.34 $1.19
7720 Sioux City, IA-NE 78295 78121 11744 3008 -8910 $1.00 $0.90
7760 Sioux Falls, SD 131147 243462 19672 3815 96459 $1.86 $1.64
7800 South Bend, IN 188194 79788 28229 13237 -123398 $0.42 $0.43
7840 Spokane, WA 228580 211511 34287 6960 -44396 $0.93 $0.83
7880 Springfield, IL 109497 194573 16425 7131 75782 $1.78 $1.60
7920 Springfield, MO 259841 119345 38976 12460 -167012 $0.46 $0.44
8050 State College, PA 74740 545023 11211 9880 468952 $7.29 $6.46
8080 Steubenville-
Weirton, OH-WV
85035 122679 12755 0 24889 $1.44 $1.25
8120 Stockton-Lodi, CA 275593 151415 41339 29354 -136164 $0.55 $0.57
8140 Sumter, SC 75076 44935 11261 896 -40506 $0.60 $0.53
8160 Syracuse, NY 352570 357720 52886 49728 1993 $1.01 $1.00
8240 Tallahassee, FL 160347 159664 24052 3504 -21232 $1.00 $0.88
8280 Tampa-St. Petersburg-
Clearwater, FL
1435106 1105469 215266 82944 -461958 $0.77 $0.72
8320 Terre Haute, IN 108612 84711 16292 568 -39625 $0.78 $0.68
8360 Texarkana,
TX-Texarkana, AR
98937 272316 14841 0 158539 $2.75 $2.39
8400 Toledo, OH 354720 368622 53208 17765 -21541 $1.04 $0.95
8440 Topeka, KS 120527 136640 18079 14234 12268 $1.13 $1.09
8520 Tucson, AZ 561078 329103 84162 40346 -275790 $0.59 $0.57
8560 Tulsa, OK 676253 470753 101438 19482 -287455 $0.70 $0.63
8600 Tuscaloosa, AL 128877 198887 19332 1475 52154 $1.54 $1.35
8640 Tyler, TX 131981 82098 19797 0 -69680 $0.62 $0.54
8680 Utica-Rome, NY 144084 291519 21613 5352 131175 $2.02 $1.79
8750 Victoria, TX 60166 100840 9025 0 31650 $1.68 $1.46
8780 Visalia-
Tulare-
Porterville, CA
167206 173188 25081 659 -18440 $1.04 $0.90
8800 Waco, TX 155870 112720 23381 3972 -62560 $0.72 $0.65
8872 Washington-
Baltimore,
DC-MD-VA-WV
4460257 5035562 669039 2087063 1993330 $1.13 $1.39
8920 Waterloo-
Cedar Falls, IA
82702 47477 12405 3670 -43960 $0.57 $0.54
8940 Wausau, WI 75340 94893 11301 3171 11423 $1.26 $1.13
8960 West Palm Beach-
Boca Raton, FL
675349 668201 101302 28067 -80384 $0.99 $0.90
9000 Wheeling, WV-OH 96290 135428 14444 3155 27849 $1.41 $1.25
9040 Wichita, KS 373456 286202 56018 12374 -130898 $0.77 $0.70
9080 Wichita Falls, TX 104258 137402 15639 0 17505 $1.32 $1.15
9140 Williamsport, PA 70307 124994 10546 15502 59643 $1.78 $1.74
9200 Wilmington, NC 165625 123964 24844 1188 -65316 $0.75 $0.66
9260 Yakima, WA 104580 76423 15687 668 -43176 $0.73 $0.64
9280 York, PA 230246 145214 34537 5691 -113878 $0.63 $0.57
9320 Youngstown-
Warren, OH
342573 278659 51386 15640 -99661 $0.81 $0.75
9340 Yuba City, CA 72956 65153 10943 2409 -16338 $0.89 $0.81
9360 Yuma, AZ 92680 93894 13902 0 -12688 $1.01 $0.88

 

Methodology. Commuters have a right to know exactly how much of their gas tax revenues are spent on transportation projects in their communities. Unfortunately, this hard data is not available to the public. Thus, EWG completed its investigation by examining millions of project reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Financial Management Information System (FMIS) — a listing of federal financial obligations to county — and state-level transportation projects. We then compared the estimated federal highway spending in each Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) with the estimated revenues that each MSA pays into the federal highway trust fund. Our estimates are consistent with more detailed studies of transportation spending in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and STPP's 1996 report.

EWG completed its analysis by examining millions of project reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Financial Management Information System (FMIS) — a listing of federal financial obligations to county- and state-level transportation projects. We then compared the estimated federal highway spending in each Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) with the estimated revenues that each MSA pays into the federal highway trust fund.

An MSA is defined by the Census Bureau as "a core area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core.' Each MSA must have at least one community of 50,000 people (U.S. Census 2003).

We estimated federal highway spending per MSA by examining FMIS obligations to county- and state-level projects from 1998-2003 — the years during which the last transportation bill, TEA-21, was in effect. In most cases, FMIS reported in which county federal dollars were spent or obligated to be spent. When FMIS reported that funds were spent on statewide projects, we allocated these funds to counties based on the percentage of county-level spending reported in FMIS. In other words, if the counties comprising an MSA received 50 percent of federal spending on county-level projects within a state, we allocated 50 percent of the statewide project funds to that MSA. The statewide projects represented about 10 percent of federal transportation highway expenditures.

We estimated federal transit spending per MSA by allocating to MSAs the Federal Transit Authority funds spent by local transit authorities from 1998-2001. We obtained the average local transit spending per year from 1998-2001 and multiplied the product by six to determine the estimated total MSA transit spending for 1998-2003.

We estimated highway trust fund revenues from 256 MSAs by first determining the number of drivers in each state. We obtained this data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS). We then estimated the number of drivers in each county based on the number of households that reported owning a car in the 2000 Census. If a particular county contained 5 percent of the households statewide that reported owning a car, we estimated that the county contained 5 percent of the state's drivers. Next, we estimated the number of urban drivers and the number of rural drivers in each county based on the population of each county classified as urban or rural in the 2000 Census. Then, we multiplied the number of urban drivers by the average number of miles driven per urban driver as reported in the NHTS. We did the same for rural drivers. Combined, these results gave us the number of miles driven in each county. We then apportioned the state's estimated gas tax revenues per state by the miles driven per county. Thus, if a particular county accounted for 5 percent of the miles driven per state, we estimated that the county generated 5 percent of the state's estimated gas tax revenues from that state. We then added the county-level revenue for each county within each MSA to obtain the total gas tax revenues for each MSA.

We assume that gas mileage will be similar throughout the U.S. so that drivers in each MSA will use about the same amount of gas per mile driven, and will pay about the same amount of federal gas taxes, per mile driven.

The Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is the main source of money through which the federal government pays for highway and transit projects. The HTF is composed of the Highway Account and the Mass Transit Account.

The majority of the HTF is funded by the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents per gallon. Of the 18.4 cents, 15.44 cents is dedicated to the Highway Account and 2.86 cents is dedicated to the Mass Transit Account. The Leaky Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund receives .10 cents. In 2001, the gas tax generated $20.1 billion for the Highway Trust Fund, or 61.5 percent of all trust fund receipts. The HTF is also funded by taxes on gasohol, diesel, and special fuels as well as truck-related taxes on truck tires, sales of trucks and trailers, and the use of heavy vehicles (Brookings Gas Tax 2003, GAO 2002, FHWA 1996).

The gas tax is not assessed at the pump. Rather it is usually assessed on oil companies where their fuel is loaded into tanker trucks or rail cars at a terminal. The tax is paid by consumers in the form of gasoline prices that include the cost of the tax (GAO 2002, FHWA 1996).

References

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Duane D. Stanford. Metro roads shortchanged; funding formula steers cash to rural highways at the expense of gridlocked Atlanta motorists. September 28, 2003, A1.

The Brookings Institution (Brookings Gas Tax). 2003. Fueling Transportation Finance: A Primer on the Gas Tax. Robert Puentes and Ryan Prince. Accessed online March 29, 2004 at
http://www.brookings.edu/es/urban/publications/gastax.htm.

The Brookings Institution (Brookings). 2003. Slanted Pavement: How Ohio's Highway Spending Shortchanges Cities and Suburbs. March 2003. The report found that "urban counties consistently took home a smaller share of state highway funds than suburban and rural counties relative to their amount of vehicle traffic (vehicle miles traveled), car ownership (vehicle registrations), and demand for driving (gasoline sales).' While the study did not specifically examine how much money urban counties paid into the federal highway trust fund, the indicators such as vehicle miles traveled and gasoline sales suggest that such counties paid more than their rural counterparts. Accessed online March 24, 2004 at
http://www.brook.edu/es/urban/publications/Ohiogastax.htm.

The Brookings Institution (Brookings). 2004. Back to Prosperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania. The report cited forthcoming research by the Surface Transportation Policy Project and 1,000 Friends of Pennsylvania which shows that of $8.5 billion in highway and bridge funding that could be classified by location, 58 percent was spent in outer or rural townships while 42 percent flowed to cities, towns, and more established townships. These percentages of spending are exactly the reverse of the percentages of population. In Pennsylvania, 58 percent of the people live in cities, towns and more established townships while only 42 percent of people live in outer or rural townships. Accessed online March 26, 2004 at:
www.brook.edu/es/urban/publications/pa.htm.

Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). 2004. Support grows for fairer allocation of transportation funds to Denver region. Denver Regional Council of Governments. 2003. A Resolution in support of an equitable allocation of state and federal transportation dollars in the metropolitan Denver region. Accessed online March 24 and 25, 2004 at
www.drcog.org/pub_news/Board_Resolution_23.htm.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). 1996. Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956: Creating the Interstate System, sidebars, The Highway Trust Fund. Accessed online March 29, 2004 at
www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/summer96/p96su10c.htm.

Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP). 1998. TEA-21 User's Guide: Making the Most of the New Transportation Bill. STPP Website

Transportation Weekly. 2004. House Committee Approves Six-Year Highway Bill Containing $279.5 Billion in Guaranteed Spending. March 25, 2004.

U.S. Census Bureau (U.S. Census Bureau). 2003. About Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas. Accessed online March 29, 2004 at
www.census.gov/population/www/estimates/aboutmetro.html.

U.S. General Accounting Office. 2002. Overview of Highway Trust Fund Financing. Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Nuclear Safety, Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate, February 11, 2002. Accessed online March 29, 2004 at
www.gao.gov/new.items/d02435t.pdf.

U.S. Department of Transportation. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). 2004. TEA-21 Federal Highway Trust Fund Account Receipts Attributable to the States and Federal-aid Apportionments and Allocations from the Highway Account, Fiscal Years 1998-2003. Accessed online March 29, 2004 at www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs02/fe221b.htm#foot1.

 

Key Issues: