68% Would Pay Higher Taxes to Support Highways, Bridges

September 28, 2010

Americans overwhelmingly believe the nation's infrastructure is crumbling and are willing to spend more of their tax dollars to fix it. They also recognize improving infrastructure creates jobs and improves quality of life, according to a new study commissioned by HNTB Corporation.

In the nationwide survey conducted earlier this month, more than four in five (81 percent) Americans agree making sacrifices to pay for infrastructure improvements now will make the difference between a more prosperous or a more difficult future for the next generation.

Almost seven in ten (68 percent) are willing to pay more taxes to support highway and bridge maintenance and new construction. In fact, the average American would part with $22 a month to reduce the time they spend in traffic by 20 percent.

"These survey results show people understand the value infrastructure projects have in advancing job creation and economic competitiveness," said Paul Yarossi, president of HNTB Holdings Ltd. "By making it easier to deliver goods and services and respond to natural and man-made disasters, America will prosper."

When asked specifically about infrastructure spending in the economic stimulus package, six in ten (60 percent) Americans said highway and bridge maintenance and new construction was most important to them, followed far behind by public transit maintenance and construction (21 percent) and improving safety and congestion at airports (8 percent).

Long-term Funding and Vision

"While passing a smart stimulus package now is important, we cannot let it interfere with the reauthorization of federal transportation funding this fall," Yarossi said. "We have an important opportunity to establish a new vision -- to move beyond a 'business as usual' bill. It’s critical [that] political and industry leaders help average Americans understand the challenges ahead."

And the survey indicates there isn't consensus on the need for more funding long-term and how it should be spent.

While rising construction costs, improved fuel economy and reduced driving have depleted the Federal Highway Trust fund, nearly half of Americans (49 percent) believe the gas tax is sufficient to properly maintain our roads and bridges.

And when given a choice of increased gas taxes, tolling, congestion pricing and other new user fees, only high-occupancy vehicle lanes (42 percent) -- where drivers can choose between free-flowing toll lanes or congested "free lanes" -- and toll roads and bridges managed by local or state governments (37 percent) received more support than "none of the above" (20 percent).

"While the general public is ready for sacrifice, we must address misinformation, mistrust and a lack of vision," Yarossi said. "A long-term formula for success must include multiple modes of transportation with multiple forms of funding."

Survey results suggest public transportation could serve as the basis for a modern, multimodal American transportation infrastructure system.

Respondents clearly see the transformational nature of such systems, including high-speed rail and light rail transit. Over eight in ten (81 percent) agree the expansion of such systems can transform American travel and commerce, just as the Interstate Highway System did during the 20th century. Half (50 percent) believe spending on highway projects should equal spending on public transportation. And nearly two in three (66 percent) believe freight and passenger traffic should be separated on the roads and rails.

About the Survey

HNTB's America THINKS survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,007 Americans Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 2009. It was conducted by Kelton Research, which used an e-mail invitation and online survey. Quotas are set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

With nearly a century of service, HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving federal, state, municipal, military and private clients.