VMT not part of infrastructure plan, DOT says

March 29, 2021

Mark Schremmer

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President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan doesn’t call for a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, a U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson said.

In a Business Insider article published on Saturday, March 27, the Department of Transportation said a VMT tax is not under consideration as the way to fund the administration’s infrastructure package.

The comment from the DOT comes days after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that a VMT tax showed “promise” as a possible transition from a traditional fuel tax.

However, the DOT said Buttigieg, who was testifying at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing, was talking broadly about the various ways to fund transportation.

Infrastructure plan

Biden’s infrastructure plan is expected to be announced Wednesday, March 31, during a speech in Pittsburgh.

According to the Associated Press, the plan to rebuild roads, bridges and other infrastructure, will be the first phase of Biden’s multitrillion economic recovery package. A separate plan addressing health care is expected to be announced in April.

At the T&I hearing, Buttigieg pointed to a lack of infrastructure investment in recent years and an opportunity to transform transportation in the United States.

“Across the country, we face a trillion-dollar backlog of needed repairs and improvements, with hundreds of billions of dollars in good projects already in the pipeline,” Buttigieg said. “We see other countries pulling ahead of us, with consequences for strategic and economic competition. By some measures, China spends more on infrastructure every year than the U.S. and Europe combined. The infrastructure status quo is a threat to our collective future. We face an imperative to create resilient infrastructure and confront inequities that have devastated communities.”

Buttigieg said the plan will focus on creating jobs, repairing highways and bridges, recommitting to improving safety, addressing inequities in the transportation system, and tackling the climate crisis.

VMT tax

The possibility of a VMT tax has been floated around as a possibility in recent years as the push toward electric vehicles continues. Opponents of a VMT tax point to privacy and technology concerns.

During a meeting with American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in February, Buttigieg said a variety of funding possibilities were on the table and that even included potentially moving away from the traditional user-pay system.

“There are so many possibilities on the table,” Buttigieg said. “Even some of the principles are on the table. What I mean by that is that a principle like the user-pay principle isn’t the only way that some members of Congress are thinking of, while it is certainly very important to a lot of members.

“We’re very open minded. What we know is that it has to be sustainable. It has to be predictable. It has to be defensible. And in an evolving transportation system, it’s got to be set up in a way that’s affordable.”

OOIDA has been particularly opposed to suggestions of a truck-only VMT.

“We are disappointed that this controversial and discriminatory proposal has resurfaced, as our industry has consistently supported increasing Highway Trust Fund revenue through equitable increases to existing user fees,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer wrote in a letter to lawmakers earlier this month. “The inclusion of such a divisive policy in the next surface transportation reauthorization would instantly eliminate our support for the bill and likely destroy any hope for its passage.” LL

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.