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Posts tagged: cost allocation

Otter, Allred on car-truck fee study

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today’s meeting of Gov. Butch Otter’s transportation funding task force, which voted unanimously to accept a new state-commissioned cost-allocation study showing car owners are overpaying for Idaho roads while heavy trucks underpay, but expressed strong reservations about raising fees for trucks. Here’s Otter’s reaction to today’s task force action:

“The cost allocation study is a helpful starting point, not an end. We have to put its findings in context. The study will help inform policy makers as we determine the need and how to address it. But we also must answer such policy questions as whether to include GARVEE funding, whether to include federal funding or whether to look at state funding alone in determining a path forward under the study.”

And here’s the reaction of Otter’s Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, who’s called for cutting Idaho’s gas tax by 3 cents a gallon and raising truck fees to make up the difference: “Idaho families can’t afford to subsidize the heavy trucking industry in times like these. We need a governor who works for Idaho families, not his political contributors.”

Task force accepts cost-allocation study, but worries about impact on truckers

Gov. Butch Otter’s transportation funding task force has voted unanimously to accept the state’s new cost-allocation study, which shows that heavy trucks are underpaying for their wear and tear on Idaho’s highways, while owners of cars and light pickups are overpaying. The panel’s acceptance, however, was subject to “further refinement upon receipt of new information” by the Idaho Transportation Department, with several members noting that the study is a model for determining equity - not the answer on which way the state should go. The Idaho Trucking Association has strongly objected to the new study, which it said in a letter to a task force subcommittee is “ignoring the substantial contribution commercial trucks already make to our economy, our employment base and our highway tax structure.”

The AAA of Idaho, on the other hand, welcomed the study as something Idaho “can use … in a positive way to address equity, and also in the bigger issue of how to raise enough money” to fund “our huge underinvestment” in transportation. Said AAA government affairs director Dave Carlson, “I think the public perception is, ‘Why have we been for years tending to the needs of the trucking industry to the exclusion of other highway users?’”

Several task force members expressed misgivings. Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, asked if there’s any way the cost-allocation process can “build in an X factor” for things like economic and cultural concerns, “like in northern Idaho where we have chip trucks and logging trucks that pretty much enable the economy. … If we put those trucks out of business, those communities are going to pretty much go under.” ITD official Doug Benzon responded that it’s a policy decision for lawmakers and the governor as to how to proceed on any changes in fees or taxes; the study, he said, “is looking at pure numbers.”

Task force member Jerry Whitehead, an ITD board member and president of Western Trailers, said, “It looks to me like if we raise things higher than the surrounding states, that’s really going to place a load on the intrastate carriers such as chip haulers, farmers, things like that.” Darrell Manning, also a task force member and chairman of the Idaho Transportation Board, said the board will use the study, along with many other factors as it develops funding proposals. “This is only one of hundreds of tools in a very complex system,” he said. “We’re trying to be fair to all concerned.”

Cars pay more, trucks pay less, and Idaho’s road-funding gap grows

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how Idaho motorists are paying more and more of the cost of maintaining the state’s roads, while drivers of heavy trucks are paying less, according to a new state study,  though the trucks are causing far more damage to the roads; meanwhile, Idaho faces a “widening gap” between its road funding and its needs, experts told Gov. Butch Otter’s transportation funding task force Tuesday, and task force members said the most promising source to fill that gap is a gas tax increase, the very thing Otter failed to persuade lawmakers to endorse for two years running.

Trucks vs. cars on pavement damage

Consultant Patrick Balducci of Battelle Group told the governor’s transportation funding task force just now that axle weights matter, not just total weight of a truck compared to total weight of a car, when calculating impact on pavement damage. But, under questioning from committee members, he said the rule of thumb is that one fully loaded axle on a big truck is equal to the pavement damage of 10,000 passenger cars. Task force members were stunned. “It’s been measured,” Balducci told them. “For years, millions of trucks have been measured. These are engineering calculations that have been studied by the federal government beginning in the 1950s and continuing today.” When task force member Jim Riley asked what the difference might be if that figure were off by 25 percent - say, if a loaded truck axle were equal to just 7,500 passenger cars - Balducci said that would be contrary to “50 years of research on the part of the Federal Highway Administration.”

Reasons for the car-truck fee disparity…

Part of the reason for the big disparity between heavy trucks and cars in Idaho on paying their fair share for roads: The repeal of the weight-distance tax in 2001, as a result of a lawsuit. Since then, heavy trucks have paid only registration fees. Idaho’s last formally published highway cost-allocation study in 2002 didn’t fully reflect that change, consultant Patrick Balducci told the governor’s transportation funding task force today. An unpublished state highway cost allocation study in 2007 showed figures between the 2002 study and the new one, he said, which provides additional evidence of the trend toward cars paying more and trucks less.

Another factor: More construction, partly as a result of the GARVEE bonding program. When pavement or bridges are replaced in major construction projects, more of the cost of that is allocated to trucks than to cars, Balducci explained, “because of the ratio between axle weights and pavement damage.” That’s as opposed to costs for signals or general highway operations, which are attributed more equally to all types of vehicles. Also, the bonding program was focused on the interstate system, Balducci noted, which sees more heavy-truck travel. He also noted on big trucks the “data that they’re going to do much more damage than the lighter vehicles.”

New study: Idaho cars overpaying, trucks underpaying

The trend in Idaho is clear, according to a new highway cost-allocation study presented to the governor’s transportation funding task force today: “More and more overpayment on the part of automobiles and pickup trucks, and more underpayment on the part of combination trucks.” That’s what consultant Patrick Balducci of Battelle Group told the task force just now. There are a few different ways to look at the numbers. When the full picture of federal and state funding is taken into account, along with the impact of the GARVEE bonding program, the disparity looks even worse: Drivers of passenger cars are overpaying by 47 percent compared to their cost of wear and tear on the roads, drivers of pickups are overpaying by 18 percent, and drivers of combination semi-trucks are paying only 67 percent of the cost they create, a 33 percent underpayment.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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