Surface Transportation News: The questionable future of the Highway Trust Fund
Photo 286274638 © Andrii Biletskyi |

Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter

Surface Transportation News: The questionable future of the Highway Trust Fund

Plus: Hybrids vs. battery-electric vehicles, aerial trams, Texas tolling, and more.

In this issue:

The Questionable Future of the Highway Trust Fund

On Feb. 8, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its semi-annual outlook on the federal budget, and its latest 10-year projection is frightening. CBO projects annual federal budget deficits to increase steadily, exceeding $2.5 trillion by 2034, assuming current policies continue. And that is the optimistic preview because it also assumes that all current programs continue as authorized, the Trump tax cuts expire on schedule, there is no recession, and there is nothing like a war. Per this scenario, the federal government is projected to borrow an additional $20 trillion over the next decade, the CBO estimates.

One driving factor is the impact of higher interest rates on the current $34 trillion (and growing) national debt. Back in 2021, interest expense in the federal budget totaled $350 billion, but CBO projects this will increase to $860 billion this year, which is more than the defense budget. By 2034 annual interest expense is projected to be $1.6 trillion—more than one-fourth of all federal tax revenue.

I’ll get to the Highway Trust Fund in a moment, but first this message from the Penn Wharton Budget Model back in October. Their model suggests that the United States has about 20 years to fix this debt/deficit problem—“after which no amount of future tax increases or spending cuts could avoid the government defaulting on its debt, whether explicitly or implicitly. . . . This time frame is the ‘best case’ scenario for the United States, under market conditions where participants believe that corrective fiscal actions will happen ahead of time. If, instead, they started to believe otherwise, debt dynamics would make the time window for corrective action even shorter.”

On Aug. 2, 2023, Fitch Ratings downgraded the federal government’s long-term debt rating from AAA to AA+. And on Nov. 10, 2023, Moody’s Investors Service reduced its outlook on the U.S. credit rating from “stable” to “negative.” Standard & Poor’s did its downgrade in 2011. These are warning shots across the ship of state’s bow.

Turning now to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), the indefatigable Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation drew on the new CBO 10-year outlook report, which shows “long-term bad news for the Highway Trust Fund.” Due to both recent changes in federal fuel-economy mandates for new vehicles and increased subsidies for electric vehicles, gas-tax revenue is shrinking at an ever-faster rate. Federal gas tax receipts are now projected to decline from $24 billion this year to less than $18 billion in Fiscal Year 2034. CBO projections also show that as early as 2026, half of the funds of the Mass Transit Account will come from general fund money, and the Highway Account will drop below 50% gas-tax support in 2033.

Continuation of huge general-fund transfers to the Highway Trust Fund (such as those from the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act) would mean that the original users-pay/users-benefit model of fuel taxes is being abandoned. That poses serious risks for the future of U.S. highways and mass transit. One option, therefore, would be to jettison the HTF as unsustainable in the coming federal government fiscal debacle. The largest cause of the potential federal default on the national debt is the coming crisis for Social Security and Medicare, which are the principal drivers of the huge projected increases in federal spending. The systems’ trustees project that their trust funds will be insolvent by 2033. In the years leading up to that, reforming those systems will take priority over nearly all other federal programs, eliminating large amounts of “non-essential” spending.

With that Armageddon only a decade away, instead of extending an IIJA funded entirely by issuing new federal bonds (i.e., further increasing the national debt), the transportation community should begin seriously thinking about how best to protect and ensure needed funding of highways and transit. Here is one possible approach: Devolve highways and transit to state and local governments, to insulate them from the federal government’s financial meltdown. Here are a few thoughts on how it might work.

First, let’s remember that states own nearly all highways, including the Interstates. Second, they are already taking the lead in trying out per-mile charges for highways, typically known as mileage-based user fees (MBUFs) in the east and road usage charges (RUCs) in the west. The pace of change could be accelerated, due in part to what we now know is a more-rapid-than-expected reduction in gas-tax revenue. Statewide phase-in of per-mile charging would ensure proper highway funding as the federal role recedes. The rate each state charges would initially be enough to replace state fuel taxes but would need to be adjusted to subsequently replace the eventual demise of the federal gas tax. A robust state MBUF/RUC program would be based on real user payments, not on federal borrowed money. This is vitally important for proper stewardship of our essential transportation infrastructure.

Second, here is a possible approach to transit funding in a devolved system, proposed by my long-time friend and colleague Ed Regan, now retired from a long career at CDM Smith. Instead of replicating the centralized federal model of transit grants, each urban area could fund its transit plan via a transit tax on the vehicle miles of travel within its urbanized area. That way, rural people would no longer be taxed to pay for urban transit systems which they never use or benefit from.

Admittedly, these would be radical changes, but they are aimed at insulating this country’s essential surface transportation infrastructure from the coming fiscal crisis of the federal government. All of us in transportation need to start thinking of ways to shield these vital resources as status-quo federal support becomes impossible.

» return to top

Hybrids vs. Battery-Electric Vehicles, Continued

February was not a good month for an expedited U.S. transition to battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). On Feb. 28, Apple announced the demise of its Project Titan to develop its own BEV, after reportedly spending billions on the project. The same day, China’s largest BEV company—BYD—announced a new line of inexpensive plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs); the lowest-priced of these is a bit over $11,000.

Also that day, The Washington Post published an article by Shannon Osaka, “The ‘Greenest’ Car in America Might Surprise You.” It reported the results of a study from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Its GreenerCars report analyzed 1,200 personal vehicles on the U.S. market in 2024. For each one, it estimated its CO2 emissions from on-road operations, CO2 emissions from its manufacturing, and conventional emissions such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxides, and particulates. The winner, with 71 points out of a possible 100, was the Toyota Prius Prime SE, a plug-in hybrid. Six of the top 10 were BEVs, while #6 was another PHEV—a Toyota RAV4 Prime—and numbers 7 and 9 were gas hybrids whose battery is recharged by its gasoline engine during driving (Hyundai Elantra Blue and Toyota Camry LE). Thus, four of the 10 greenest vehicles in the 2024 U.S. market are hybrids.

The Consumers Reports annual car reliability survey last fall found that BEVs are less reliable, on average, than either hybrids or conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. BEVs were found to be 79% more likely than ICEs to have reliability problems. Conventional hybrids (recharged on the road while driving) were the most reliable, having 26% fewer problems than either internal combustion engines (ICEs) or plug-in hybrid EVs.

Last year Americans bought 1.4 million hybrids, compared with 1.1 million BEVs. But some climate-focused groups are upset about the continued popularity of hybrids. The Public Citizen group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in December, alleging that Toyota’s designation “hybrid EV” is misleading. To be sure, most hybrids are more carbon-intensive than BEVs, despite the fact that the much smaller batteries of hybrids have a significantly lower manufacturing carbon footprint than those of BEVs.

The question facing federal policymakers is whether a serious push to replace ICEs with BEVs, such as that implied by the current Environmental Protection Agency’s aggressive miles per gallon requirements for new vehicles, is too much, too soon. As I’ve pointed out in previous newsletter articles, the charging infrastructure will be far from sufficient by 2032 to handle 67% of all new cars as BEVs. Moreover, the electricity grid will not be capable of handling such a rapid transition to BEVs, nor will the production of electricity be enough.

Thanks to this whole array of problems, there are growing political pressures to scale back the EPA miles per gallon regulations. Republicans in Congress are generally supportive of such revisions, and their concerns about too-much, too-soon are shared by automobile worker unions, an important Democratic constituency. So I was not surprised by a Feb. 18 Washington Post article, “Biden Administration Weighs Slowing the Shift to Electric Vehicles” with the subheadline, “Facing pressure from Detroit and unions, the Environmental Protection Agency may delay tailpipe emissions rules aimed at speeding the EV transition.”

Given the limitations of today’s battery-electric vehicles and the significant benefits of hybrids compared with internal combustion engine vehicles, a near-term focus on hybrids makes good sense.

» return to top

Are Aerial Trams A New Rapid Transit Mode?

An article on Smart Cities Dive, Feb. 9, was headlined “For U.S. Aerial Trams, the Sky’s the Limit.” It suggested that such trams could be, “The answer to easing car traffic in the Dallas area.” That reference was to a proposal to a business district in Plano, a suburb of Dallas with more than 800 businesses and a weekday population of 160,000. The Regional Transportation Council for North Texas is encouraging cities to consider aerial tram systems, and Plano has received a federal grant to compare such trams with other transit options.

The article noted that a few cities overseas have such trams, such as La Paz, Bolivia, and Mexico City. They are suitable in areas with complex topography, which is why a number of ski resorts have such systems. An aerial trams developer is quoted in the article noting that trams are designed for distances of up to 12 miles and travel at speeds less than 18.5 miles per hour.

One aerial tram project getting serious consideration is a proposed tram connecting Los Angeles Union Station with Dodger Stadium, about 1.2 miles away. A proponent is quoted in the article as saying its capacity would be 10,000 to 12,000 people per hour. But that turns out to be travel in both directions. A more realistic one-way estimate (such as going from Union Station to the stadium) would be 5,000 people per hour. How big would each gondola have to be in order to deliver that many passengers in an hour? I assumed a one-minute headway (i.e., a departure every other minute, so 30 per hour). Factoring in the speed and crunching the numbers, my estimate is that each gondola would need to carry 28 people. Do any proposed systems have gondolas that large?

Proponents make ambitious estimates of how many cars the tramway would take off the roads on game nights, but making more realistic assumptions about how many people would ride transit to Union Station in order to ride the tramway, a UCLA study estimated just 608 cars removed, and only on nights with sold-out games.

Proponents also estimate the cost of building the system at $300 million; others think $500 million is a more realistic estimate. Even if Dodger Stadium paid for the construction and operation, does that kind of cost to serve far fewer than 5,000 riders and only on game nights make any kind of sense?

Aerial gondolas are and always will be a niche market. They are not rapid, and they aren’t really transit. They can be a solution for low volumes in places with “complex topography” and ski resorts—but they surely are not “the answer to easing traffic” in Dallas, Los Angeles, or anywhere else I can think of.

» return to top

Tolling Continues in Texas

About a decade ago, Texas legislators, in sync with the new governor and lieutenant governor, decided that tolling had gone too far and that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) should neither do new toll projects nor engage in toll-financed public-private partnership projects. That decision came about despite billions of dollars’ worth of new variably priced express toll lanes that have improved mobility for millions of commuters (and commercial vehicles) in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metro areas.

Tolling and public-private partnerships (P3s) were championed by then-Gov. Rick Perry and the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, Ric Williamson. But despite the later anti-toll policies of the current administration, one other legacy of the Perry-Williamson era is the creation of regional mobility authorities (RMAs) in Texas metro areas that lacked local toll agencies. The largest of these is the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority in Austin, which built and operates the region’s first express toll lanes and several new toll roads.

Another successful toll agency is the Fort Bend Toll Road Authority, whose current projects include portions of the Fort Bend Parkway, the Grand Parkway, and the Westpark Tollway, in the western suburbs of Houston. It recently reported that it expects over $105 million in revenue in 2024. As a non-Texan, I have not kept up with all the RMAs, but another one whose projects cross my screen is the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority in Tyler, which has developed and expanded Toll 49. Yet another is the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, which developed and operates the Border West Expressway toll road.

And of course there are the two legacy toll agencies: the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) and the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA). Last month Infralogic reported that NTTA issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for an outside bond counsel with expertise in public-private partnerships. What NTTA may have in mind I do not know, but I will be interested to see what develops.

And this brings me to the question of what role Texas RMAs might play in projects that a decade ago would have been P3 express toll lanes but which TxDOT is no longer authorized to pursue.  Where new or extended express toll lanes make sense—such as in the planned extension of the existing express toll lanes on the I-10 Katy Freeway in Houston and the need for such lanes in the reconstruction of I-35 through downtown Austin—might the existing toll agency be able to partner with a competitively selected P3 company to develop and operate the new projects? I don’t know if this is legally possible, but I also don’t know if anyone has fully considered this possibility.

» return to top

Bidirectional EV Chargers Gaining Some Momentum

The idea of using your electric vehicle as a supplemental power source for your home seems to have won support from the federal Department of Energy (DOE), at least according to an article in a Jan. 11 post from Solar Power World Online. It quotes Rima Oueid of DOE’s Office of Technology Transition about making the electric grid “more dynamic and complex but also cleaner, more resilient, secure, and affordable if we harmonize energy and transport by continuing to be thoughtful in our collaborations and investments.” She champions memoranda of understanding (MOUs) such as one signed among General Motors, Ford, and Honda with providers Sunnova and Wallbox to work together on bidirectional electric vehicle charging.

Where does the solar power industry fit into this picture? Solar Power World Editor in Chief Kelly Pickerel, who authored the article, suggests that homeowners who buy an EV may find it attractive to use it to help power their home, and suggests that for solar power installers, with the residential solar market in flux, “EV charger installation and energy storage education could be a useful side hustle.” The article goes on to list five recent industry developments regarding bidirectional chargers.

Nowhere in all the articles I’ve seen about bidirectional charging is there factual information about how much the EV’s battery will be drained by powering X percent of a household’s electricity need overnight, or for some other time period with higher electricity use. Most of those who install a home charger in their garage likely do this in order to recharge their EV overnight, when electricity rates are lower than at other times. How about some numbers on how much they will be paid by their electric company for selling them X amount of power?

I still find it hard to imagine that many EV owners would want to risk starting the next day without a full charge. And the idea that you will drain the power from your EV during electricity blackouts strikes me as bizarre, since the EV would be a means of getting out of the no-electricity area (if it was likely to be a lengthy outage). People who live in hurricane, brush fire, mud-slide, or flood-prone areas need to be ready for short-notice evacuation, which implies keeping the EV fully-charged, especially if it’s the household’s only vehicle.

One final point. Several times this Solar Power World article refers to V2V in the context of bidirectional charging systems. V2V has at least a decade’s worth of history referring to communication between vehicles, not the transmission of electricity. Transmitting electricity between a vehicle and a home is V2H, a term which appears only once in the article. The expert at DOE is quoted—mistakenly, I hope—as also calling this V2V.

» return to top

Slow Progress on Federal Automated Vehicle Policy
By Marc Scribner

Federal lawmakers came very close to passing comprehensive automated vehicle (AV) legislation during the 115th Congress in 2017-2018. But since then, there has been no serious effort to enact a federal AV law. At the same time, AV regulatory activity at the once-enthusiastic U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has slowed to a crawl. A long-stalled foundational proposed regulation on AV trucks is finally being prepared for release, but current political leadership has little incentive to pick up the pace of policymaking.

In Sept. 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the SELF DRIVE Act by voice vote. Like the AV industry, Congress was riding a wave of technology optimism. The mood quickly soured. The trial lawyers’ lobby, for reasons that still aren’t completely clear, began raising objection after objection to the Senate’s companion bill, the AV START Act. They succeeded in running out the clock during a chaotic period that saw power-shifting midterm elections and a breakdown in appropriations that ended in the longest government shutdown in history.

Since 2019, Congress has declined to prioritize AV legislation, with the plaintiffs’ bar being joined by labor unions as strong opponents to any congressional action. While Congress took a step back, senior leadership at the U.S. DOT under the Trump administration continued efforts to modernize federal auto and motor carrier safety regulations to incorporate AVs. These Trump-era rulemaking initiatives included:

Following the presidential transition in Jan. 2021, the Biden administration initiated a customary “regulatory freeze” to review pending rulemaking activities from the prior administration. Since the “thaw,” only one of the eight Trump-era AV rulemaking projects—Occupant Protection for Vehicles With Automated Driving Systems, published in March 2022—has been completed. Three others have been officially terminated and work on three more has slowed to a glacial pace.

While it has had plenty of opportunity to propose its own vision of federal AV regulation, as both the Trump and Obama administrations had done before it, the Biden administration has chosen not to do so. Apart from finalizing the Trump DOT’s occupant protection rule, the Biden DOT’s most significant action on AVs to date has been a June 2021 Standing General Order (and two subsequent amendments) requiring standardized AV crash reporting.

But in Dec. 2023, the proposed rule on the Safe Integration of Automated Driving Systems-Equipped Commercial Motor Vehicles (renamed as Motor Carrier Operation of Automated Driving System (ADS)-Equipped Commercial Motor Vehicles) was finally submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for required review. U.S. DOT’s Feb. 2024 Significant Rulemaking Report estimates the proposal will be published sometime this month—three years late.

Roll Call transportation reporter Valerie Yurk covered this AV trucking regulation development, but noted that “sources familiar with federal rule-making say that the administration isn’t likely to propose a framework for passenger vehicles soon.”

This is unfortunate because evidence is growing that the limited number of passenger-carrying AVs on the roads today are already having a positive safety impact. As I noted in the Jan. 2024 edition of this newsletter, Waymo recently estimated that its robotaxis operating in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Francisco have so far produced an 85% reduction in the “any injury reported” crash rate relative to human drivers.

Waymo, along with most other AV developers, currently relies on conventional vehicles that are then retrofitted with automated driving systems. However, purpose-built AVs with novel designs that cannot be certified under existing safety regulations will need a new framework if they are to ever be mass produced.

In November, General Motors’ Cruise subsidiary temporarily paused production of its purpose-built Origin robotaxi that lacks manual driving controls, although it still plans to put Origins into service in the next few years. Temporary exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards are allowed, but they are capped at 2,500 vehicles per year by federal law. As a result, scaling production of purpose-built AVs requires either regulatory modernization at U.S. DOT or an increase in the statutory exemption cap by Congress, neither of which appear to be forthcoming.

That being said, the new proposed rule on AV trucks will be welcome progress from U.S. DOT. Industry consultant Lee White was quoted in a recent Transport Topics article saying that AV truck developers will be deploying initial driverless cargo operations over the next 36 months. Clear national policies on AV truck operations, inspections, repair, and maintenance are likely needed to encourage broader industry adoption at scale.

But aligning industry and regulatory timelines may prove challenging, as even the Trump DOT worked for six months at breakneck speed to complete its draft final rule on occupant protection after the public comment period closed on the proposed rule. Given the AV skepticism of key Democratic Party constituencies in this presidential election year, the Biden administration seems likely to keep AV regulatory policy in the slow lane.

» return to top

News Notes

Tennessee Selects First Choice Lanes Corridor
The new Transportation Modernization Board selected the southeast portion of I-24 between Nashville and Murfreesboro to be the location of the state’s first express toll lanes project. This corridor is the most-congested of the four corridors selected by Tennessee Department of Transportation as most-promising. The plan calls for these new lanes to be designed, built, financed, operated, and maintained via long-term public-private partnerships (P3s). The projects will be procured and overseen by the recently-created TDOT P3 office. Its director, Bryan Ledford, told Infralogic that one of the important benefits of the new Choice Lanes will be improved express bus service in these uncongested lanes. The request for qualifications (RFQ) will be released by the end of this year.

Private Activity Bond Cap Might Be Reached Soon
Engineering News-Record reported last month that according to the U.S DOT’s Build America Bureau, of the recently-increased $30 billion total of tax-exempt PABs that can be issued, recent allocations for new projects (including Brightline West) will leave only $5.19 billion in available capacity. Several major bridge and express toll lane projects in or nearing procurement will soon use most or all of that. Consequently, Congress will be asked to either further increase or remove the cap when it develops the 2026 highway-transit reauthorization bill.

Georgia DOT Issues RFI for First I-285 Express Lanes P3
On March 4 the Georgia Department of Transportation released its request for information (RFI) for the I-285 East Express Lanes project. The project involves adding express toll lanes along 30 miles of I-285 on the northern and eastern portions of this ring-road known locally as the Perimeter. The project is planned as a revenue-risk design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) public-private partnership. Responses to the RFI are due on April 12. The RFI will be followed by a request for qualifications (RFQ) and then a request for proposals (RFP). The project will provide for enhanced transit operations in the new lanes, in addition to personal vehicles.

California Energy Commission Supports Heavy-Truck Hydrogen Refueling
In its new plan to support the transition to non-internal-combustion vehicles, the California Energy Commission voted last month to spend at least $15 million from its clean transportation fund on medium- and heavy-truck hydrogen refueling infrastructure this year, while adding no new spending on hydrogen refueling for passenger vehicles. The move reflects recent research showing that battery-electric power is not a good fit for electrifying heavy trucks, due to the huge weight of the battery packs, which leads to low range and low payloads compared with hydrogen fuel cells.

Seattle I-405 Express Lanes Get Toll Increase
Drivers in the much-used express lanes on I-405 experience a bottleneck going northbound where the two lanes of express lanes traffic revert to only a single lane. That bottleneck has led to congestion during the evening peak, and the variable toll mechanism that would address the problem has been hobbled by a state-imposed ceiling of $10 to traverse the corridor. Fortunately, as Mike Lindblom reported in the Seattle Times on Jan. 29, starting March 1 that cap is increased to $15. The change will also extend variable-pricing hours to 8 pm, rather than ending at 7 pm. Most express toll lanes charge variable tolls 24/7, since some motorists seem happy to use them at a very low charge at night and on weekends. Not charging them leaves money on the table.

New U.S. EV Charging Network Announced
John Voelcker reported, in a Feb. 12 Car & Driver article, that BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, and Stellantis have joined forces to develop a U.S. electric vehicle charging network called Ionna, based on an existing network in Europe called Ionity. The plan is to have 30,000 charging stations installed and operating by 2030. The stations will offer both the CCS and Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) connectors. The sites will be developed along highways and also within urban areas. Ionna’s CEO will be Seth Cutler, formerly president of EVgo and before that chief infrastructure engineer of Electrify America.

Vinci Buys 100% of Northwest Parkway P3 Concession
Infralogic reported (Feb. 28) that Vinci Highways has acquired full ownership of the P3 concession for the nine-mile Northwest Parkway in the western suburbs of Denver. Previous owners were infrastructure funds DIF Capital Partners, Northleaf Capital Partners, and HICL Infrastructure. Financial close is expected in the second quarter of this year. The acquisition is Vinci’s first revenue-risk P3 project in the United States. The company noted that the concession has 83 remaining years and that the toll road has significant growth potential.  

Puerto Rico Finalizes Port P3
Infralogic reported (Feb. 14) that a public-private partnership for a 30-year DBFOM P3 concession won by San Juan Cruise Ports had reached financial close. The purpose of the project is to repair, modernize, operate, and maintain seven cruise ship docks in San Juan Bay. Concessionaire San Juan Cruise Ports is paying a $72 million concession fee up front and is committed to investing more than $400 million in improvements. The financing includes both taxable and tax-exempt bonds. The company must also put $1.6 million into an escrow account for maintenance and dredging. The procurement was managed by the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority.

Planned Extension of Silicon Valley Express Toll Lanes
The San Mateo County Transportation Authority is considering the addition of express toll lanes to its section of U.S. 101, the main freeway linking Silicon Valley to San Francisco city and county. The project would extend the existing express toll lanes on the 101 freeway. The new lanes would start at the Santa Clara County line in the south and continue northward to I-380 in South San Francisco. The 22-mile project would seamlessly extend the Bay Area express lanes network, including access to San Francisco International Airport.

Feds to Cover Lion’s Share of Gateway Tunnel Megaproject
The $16 billion Gateway project to build new rail tunnels between New Jersey and Manhattan was planned as a joint venture of the two states and the federal government. But Politico reported last month that the Federal Transit Administration is now expected to pay for 73% of the project’s costs, leaving a bit over 25% to come from the two states and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. This is possible because the federal government can run huge deficits, in contrast to states which must balance their budgets every year. The Port Authority can issue bonds backed by its revenue from airport, bridge, port, and tunnel operations. The current estimates, assuming 73% from FTA, are $2.67 billion PANYNJ, $1.33 billion New York State, and $0.3 billion from New Jersey.

Tesla Building Better EV Charging Stations, Says Politico
Thanks in part to $17 million in federal infrastructure grants, Tesla is currently the largest developer/operator of EV charging stations. The company cleared the way to eligibility for federal grants by agreeing to open its existing charging stations to non-Tesla vehicles. In addition, Tesla’s NACS charging standard has been adopted by most auto manufacturers. Politico’s Feb. 20 article pointed out that Tesla has won the largest share of federal charging station grants. In addition, its charging plazas tend to have eight or more stations (versus four) and their average cost is “dramatically lower than most other [applicants] for infrastructure law funds.”

Kansas to Launch Pilot Project on Road User Charges
Kansas DOT is seeking volunteers for a three-month simulation of a per-mile charge intended to replace per-gallon fuel taxes. KDOT is offering participants up to $100 for feedback after taking part in the project, reports KAKE television in Wichita. KDOT is the lead agency in the Midwest RUC study, which also includes Minnesota DOT.

Don’t Divert Highway Funds to Transit, Illinois Transportation Leaders Urge
In a Feb. 28 articleThe Center Square reported that transportation leaders in Illinois are urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker and legislative leaders to “keep their promise to Rebuild Illinois and stop the diversion of road funds to fill funding gaps in public transit”—specifically the Chicago Transit Authority. Pritzker’s budget proposal would shift $175 million from the Road Fund to Chicago transit operations. In question is the bipartisan support that enabled the 2019 Rebuild Illinois plan. 

Impact Debate on Electric Vehicles, March 13
Mobility Impact Partners, an organization that presents thoughtful debates, has announced one that may be of interest to readers of this newsletter. It’s headlined “All In on EVs?” Taking the pro position will be Steve LeVine, editor of The Electric. The con position will be argued by Dr. Ashley Nunes of Harvard University. The moderator will be Jim Hackett, former CEO of Ford Motor Company. The date is March 13. To attend online, go to:

» return to top

Quotable Quotes

“Part of the argument in favor of EVs depends on renewable energy being used to generate a growing share of electricity over the years so that CO2 emissions will decline more over time with EVs than with gas-powered vehicles. President Biden issued an executive order in 2021 calling for 100% pollution-free electricity” by 2030. Yet this goal has no chance of being achieved. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that the share of electricity from renewable sources (wind, solar, and hydroelectric) will double from 21% in 2020 to almost 42% by 2050. The reality is that we’re moving toward 100% clean energy much more slowly than the administration wants.”
—Tracy Miller, “Why Electric Vehicle Sales Mandates Should Be Abolished,” Discourse, Feb. 8, 2024

“It’s beyond absurd that it took 15 years for the federal government to approve the construction of a new electricity supply line through a mostly uninhabited area between Wyoming and Las Vegas. And those delays have serious consequences. One Princeton study found that 80 percent of the potential emissions reductions from green energy projects funded by the Inflation Reduction Act would be lost without an expansion of transmission lines. Biden could have pushed for an infrastructure bill that focused on actually building infrastructure—and that aimed to do so in a speedy, cost-effective way. Instead, the final product was a sop to labor unions and other political allies. At nearly every turn, the infrastructure package opted for policies that limited supplies, hiked prices, added paperwork, and grew government.”
—Eric Boehm, “How Biden Hobbled His Own Infrastructure Push,”, Dec. 21, 2023

“ ‘We know that transit is a magnet for folks who are experiencing homelessness, experiencing addiction and other issues, and mental illness and those kinds of things. And so [the new agents] are there to help people get the services they need,’ said Rep. Brad Tabke, DFL-Shakopee.”
—Rose Schmidt, “Metro Transit Deploys New Agents to Address Safety Concerns on Light Rail,” Fox 9, Feb. 22, 2024

» return to top