America’s freight rail network is largely privately owned. This means the railroads, not the taxpayers, pay for the network's upkeep, maintenance and repairs.
The federal government is thus effectively subsidizing the transportation of goods via highways, creating an unlevel playing field that puts safer and more environmentally-friendly freight railroads — especially small business short line freight railroads — at a competitive disadvantage versus trucking entities who rely on publicly-funded infrastructure.
To pay for the country’s roads and highways, American motorists pay a tax per gallon of gasoline or diesel with every purchase. The revenue from the taxes goes into the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which then is disbursed to states to cover costs of road building and road repairs. The gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, and the diesel tax is 24.4 cents per gallon. Both taxes have remained static at those rates since 1993 — three decades ago. As costs of construction rise and maintenance needs increase, the tax is worth relatively less and less each year. Moreover, electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly taking to the road, leading to challenges in funding HTF.
Accordingly, since 2008, Congress has had to transfer billions of dollars from non-highway coffers and to the HTF to keep it solvent — all together plugging the gaping hole with $159 billion from 2008 to 2021, and with $200 billion predicted from 2021 to 2031.
ASLRRA supports policy solutions that increase the gas tax, restore the Highway Trust Fund's (HTF) solvency and re-affirm a true user-pays system.
ASLRRA also supports efforts to develop a new and efficient user-pay model, such as a Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT) system, that will be sustainable and equitable, supporting long-term surface transportation needs.