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• New vehicle sales have slowed. Consumers are keeping their cars longer, cutting into tab fee revenues.
• Construction costs, including those for oil-based materials like those used in paving projects, are increasing at a faster pace than revenues.
On top of that, a landmark highway bill passed by Congress this summer, called MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) makes changes in how federal highway dollars are doled out to the states and sets performance standards for state highway agencies in areas such as road safety, congestion and condition.
“We need to get back to making the effort to doing the work that needs to be done on our roads and bridges,” said state Rep. Ron Erhardt, DFL-Edina, chairman of the Transportation Policy Committee. “Right now, it’s just patch and repair. We have a lot of things that we need to be doing, but we’re just not keeping abreast with it.”
Both Erhardt and Donahoe said lawmakers likely will be looking at new ways to generate revenue for transportation. In response to declining gasoline tax revenues, Erhardt said, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill this year creating a mileage-based user fee based on how much a driver uses the roads. Though Minnesota is far from having the infrastructure to do that, it could supplement or replace the gasoline tax.
There also might be ways to tie the state gasoline tax — currently 28.6 cents — to the overall fuel purchase, rather than having it based on the per-gallon price. Unlike inflation, the set amount does not increase.
Unlike other taxes, revenues dedicated for good roads are generally supported by voters, Donahoe added.
“Transportation really was an issue that didn’t get done in 2013. In 2014, we know the Legislature will be focusing on infrastructure” as it focuses on the bonding bill, she said.
Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson