Dwindling Federal Gas Tax Funds Put Georgia Transportation Projects on Hold

May 12, 2014

Gas prices are heading down nationwide and in Georgia.

The average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded was $3.65 Sunday, May 11, which was the twelfth day in a row the price declined.

American Automobile Association spokesman Mark Jenkins says prices should continue to drop throughout the summer because of unprecedented crude oil supply. “Here in the Gulf Coast refineries, they’re at record levels of petroleum,” said Jenkins. And last month, they reached their highest monthly average of production since 1988.”

But with gas consumption down overall, because of more fuel-efficient vehicles, highway tax revenue continues to drop.

Now the Georgia Department of Transportation is facing a big roadblock when it comes to new projects.

The federal government imposes a tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gas. That rate has not changed in more than 20 years, despite declining gas use, and now the Federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money.

Flat Shoals Parkway at I-285.
Credit Chris Ferguson/WABE

  “We have known for, I guess, about a year that they could see long-term that funds were not at the level to maintain roads and bridges and any transit projects,” said Natalie Dale, a spokesperson with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). “And so, we knew that the fund would reach insolvency by September, but it looks now as that it will dip below the critical funding level as soon as July.”

In metro Atlanta alone, there are nearly 40 GDOT projects set to begin in the third fiscal quarter. Among those now on hold: a major redesign of the I-285 / Flat Shoals Road interchange and part of the Atlanta BeltLine bicycle corridor.

Dale says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has told state transportation heads not to expect Congress to make a move to alleviate the funding crunch anytime soon.