Chart of the Day: Road Funding by Source

Via the Strong Towns Podcast, here’s a chart from a report called “Who Pays for Roads?” by a public policy think tank called The Frontier Group.

Note that this shows all levels of government:


Here’s what the report says about the chart:

By the early 2010s, road user fees accounted for less than half of current highway expenses. Just over 10 percent of highway spending came from bond revenues and the rest from general taxpayers and other non-user sources of revenue.  In 2012, taxes and fees paid by general taxpayers provided $69 billion in funding for highways nationwide, an average household burden of $597 per household per year. Local governments accounted for $47 billion of that spending. The federal government added $6 billion in non-user revenue, most of it in the form of general fund allocations intended to patch holes in the Highway Trust Fund, while state governments spent an additional $15.6 billion in revenue from sources other than highway users.

As the authors describe, there’s a myth out there that roads are paid for by gas taxes and other drivers’ fees. (Many states, including Minnesota, constitutionally dedicate those funds specifically for road costs.) The truth is that things have been changing. For some time now, the majority of road costs have come from general tax revenue and borrowing.

Check out the rest of the detailed report on the subject. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

5 Responses to Chart of the Day: Road Funding by Source

  1. Adam Froehlig
    Adam Froehlig September 15, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    I’m skeptical of one item in the report: that a state sales tax exemption on gasoline purchases is a “subsidy”. One could argue that the gas tax is a form of a “sales tax”, albeit on a per-gallon level instead of a percentage level. One could also argue that those states who use both a traditional gas tax AND charge a state sales tax on gasoline are engaging in a form of double-taxation.

  2. Evan Roberts
    Evan September 15, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Worth noting that in most countries with near-universal value added taxes, gas (petrol!) is charged both “fuel excise” and GST/VAT.

    Nothing wrong with it on theoretical, philosophical, or practical grounds.

  3. Wayne September 15, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    So since I’m helping pay for half the roads via general fund dollars and II don’t own a car, can we get some damn inner city bus lanes already?!

    • Nick September 15, 2015 at 11:36 pm #



  1. Who Pays For Our Roads « Berkshire Bicycle - September 16, 2015

    […] Chart of the Day: Road Funding by Source | […]

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