Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed eliminating the state’s portion of the gasoline tax and adding 0.8 percent to the state sales tax to fund transportation. If state lawmakers approve the plan, Virginia will be the first state to abolish its gas tax.
The proposal is driven by the obsolescence of gasoline taxes in funding serious transportation programs. People are driving less and using more fuel-efficient cars (or cars that run on fuels other than gasoline). Gas taxes doesn’t grow with inflation, and lawmakers are too timid to raise them to keep pace with the higher costs of maintaining transportation infrastructure. In short, the gas tax is a beat-up Studebaker wheezing blue exhaust.
Sales taxes do grow with inflation because of the way they are levied. Here in Pittsburgh, if you buy a candy car for $1, you pay 7 cents of tax. If the bar’s price rises to $2, you pay 14 cents. With the gas tax, if you bought a gallon that cost $2, you paid about 51 cents in tax; when the price went to $4, you still paid 51 cents. The Pennsylvania gas tax was last increased in 1997; the federal tax in 1993.
If you’re interested, there’s more here about the Virginia proposal.
It’s only January, but construction season is starting to pop up. PennDOT will begin phase 3 of the Route 65 Marshall Avenue interchange improvement project on Jan. 21. The first two phases cost more than $30 million; this one is $14.2 million and includes rehabilitating two ramp structures over railroad tracks and construction of a new pedestrian ramp to Beaver Avenue. At 6 a.m. Jan. 21, the inbound off-ramp from Route 65 to Beaver Avenue will close for about seven months. The detour keeps traffic on Route 65 to Reedsdale Street and follows Fontella Street, Ridge Avenue, Western Avenue and Chateau Street to get back to the Beav.
Fort Duquesne Bridge inspections will close the left lane on inbound Route 65 and the right lane on the inbound Parkway North approaching the bridge and continuing across the structure (both center lanes) from 6 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday. Outbound traffic will not be affected. All ramps will remain open.
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