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Recent Law Library of Congress Report on National Funding of Road Infrastructure

According to a June 2014 report by the United States Congressional Budget Office (CBO), most of the annual spending by the federal government on surface transportation programs is in the form of grants to state and local governments. These grants are primarily financed through the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF). After decades of stable balances to meet the federal contribution toward funding road infrastructure, the amounts credited to the HTF in recent years have fallen short of meeting annual spending needs, resulting in a growing fiscal imbalance. This has necessitated the transfer of funds from the U.S. Treasury’s general fund to the HTF in the years since 2008.

Several options have been put forward over the years to address this budgetary imbalance in the longer term.

West front of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C., with road construction and horse-drawn wagons in foreground ( Nov. 27, 1895), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

West front of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C., with road construction and horse-drawn wagons in foreground (Nov. 27, 1895), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c20934.

A recent report by the Law Library of Congress, National Funding of Road Infrastructure, examines the sources of funding used by other countries for the development and maintenance of road infrastructure. The report is composed of individual studies on the laws of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England and Wales, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden. It provides an overview of the road infrastructure in each jurisdiction, including information on responsibilities for constructing and maintaining roads, and an examination of the relevant taxes or other funding sources for transportation infrastructure in the countries surveyed. If applicable, a discussion of reforms or new initiatives is also included.

Some of the surveyed countries tie at least part of the revenue derived from fuel taxes and other vehicle fees or taxes to dedicated road infrastructure funds, but in several countries the various transport-related taxes become part of the general revenue from which funding for road projects is then sourced. Most of the surveyed countries were also found to have toll-road systems, and arrangements involving private investment, concessions, or public-private partnerships appear to be increasingly common.

Other types of revenue sources that may contribute to financing roads in different countries include: a “congestion tax” on vehicles during certain hours; certain types of road-user charges; and charges levied based on a vehicle’s size, type, or age.

We invite you to read the full report on National Funding of Road Infrastructure on the  Law Library of Congress website. The report is posted under the “Legal Topics” section of the website. You may also be interested in reading additional reports on a variety of other topics in this section.

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