Assistant U.S. Secretary of Transportation Tyler Duvall believes toll roads are the best option for financing roads.
Though Duvall stopped short of recommending more toll roads in Oklahoma, he told a state House subcommittee on Oct. 11 that it is unrealistic to think that roads can be built on a pay-as-you-go system.
States need to consult the private sector for investors who want to build roads with the promise of being paid back by consumers through the government, Duvall said.
Duvall also believes increasing the fuel tax nationally as a road revenue source wouldn't benefit Oklahoma because it is a donor state—it pays in more federal taxes than it gets back. The system is weighted toward more populated parts of the country.
He also said using fuel taxes to finance highway construction would not be an effective solution because of moves to reduce fuel consumption.
"I don't think it's wise to set in place a program that will fail because of another," Duvall said.
State Transportation Director Gary Ridley agreed that "a gas tax is not the way to sustain a system." He said there are only two ways to finance roads: a user fee such as a toll or general taxation on gas and diesel sales. Oklahoma currently relies on a combination of the two.
Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Oklahoma City, said the public is concerned about the NAFTA transportation routes from Mexico to the United States.
Duvall said there is a widespread misconception that trucks from Mexico are being allowed onto U.S. roads with no requirements. Those trucks are required to unload and reload after crossing the border, he said.
It's the states’ decision whether they want to improve their roads to accommodate a NAFTA system, Duvall said.