Since the Highway Trust Fund was created in 1956, revenues from the fuels tax and other highway user taxes (such as those on tires and truck sales) have been credited to it to fund the construction of the interstate system and other highway projects. The "user pays" principle that the gasoline tax represents has until recently been the foundation of the federal surface transportation program.
But the user pays principle has been weakened as the trust fund has taken on responsibility for funding the nation's mass transit systems and as the surface transportation program has added goals of mitigating the impact of transportation on the environment and now promoting livable communities.
At a time when gas tax revenues can no longer cover the cost of maintaining, much less upgrading, the nation's surface transportation infrastructure, what should a gas tax pay for? And how should we fund the non-vehicle element of our infrastructure that we may increasingly use to move people and goods?