Roughly two thirds of motorists polled in a newly-released survey by AAA support increased federal spending on infrastructure.
President Barack Obama called for $40 billion in infrastructure spending during his State of the Union address and the poll, which drew information from a pool of 817 current drivers, suggests a majority of the public would support that. But how that bill should be paid is less decisive.
“Most Americans recognize the need for increased transportation funding because they drive over potholes and bumpy roads every day,” AAA president and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet said. “Unfortunately, the main concerns voiced by motorists about transportation and driving differ markedly from the points generally expressed by policymakers to promote funding legislation.”
Primary concerns among drivers range from the safety and reliability of their vehicle, which at 34 percent of drivers was the most common, to the behavior of other drivers on the road and gas mileage (both 15 percent).
But aside from individual driving costs, crumbling infrastructure in the U.S. is a key issue.
“Policymakers and transportation advocates are failing to connect with the public on the practical concerns that matter most to motorists,” Darbelnet said. “Motorists want to hear about how their elected officials can improve their daily commute by repairing the pothole down the street or the bumpy road around the corner.”
It’s an issue that’s likely to become increasingly prominent among taxpayers. Globally, the U.S. ranked fifth in 2002 for infrastructure quality. That isn’t the case anymore. As of 2013, the U.S. slipped to 25th place according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2012 to 2013.
Fixing U.S. roadways is no easy task, and since the start of his second term, President Obama will call for an additional $4 billion in new spending for two infrastructure programs that would award loans and grants.
What’s the best spoonful of sugar for that medicine? The AAA survey shows that taxpayers will be supportive but divided on the issue.
The AAA survey listed seven areas that its polled sample said they would support, albeit in varying degrees. The most popular, at 55 percent, was replacing the per-gallon gas tax with a national gasoline sales tax. Creating a new national sales tax dedicated to transportation or expanding the use of tolls to more interstates tied with 47 percent showing support. Increasing the federal per-gallon tax was the least popular with 27 percent.
Despite that split, 87 percent said they remain concerned about wasteful government spending on transportation.
“The public seems very willing to examine innovative transportation methods to improve road quality,” Darbelnet said.