Tracking Where Our Road Tax Dollars Go

Updated Aug 28, 2014

highway-workStates that collect the most tolls, taxes, and fines also divert more from highway spending

The 15 states that run the most speed traps and collect the most road-user fees also rank as the least fiscally responsible when it comes to transportation spending, according to a study released by the National Motorists Association (NMA).

The motoristsā€™ rights organization compared all 50 states by number of speed traps operated per thousand lane miles, as reported to The National Speed Trap Exchange. The 15 states with the highest speed trap activity are:

These states are also among those with the highest collection rates of annual fuel taxes, tolls, and license taxes per lane mile-more than three times the average of the other 35 states.

In addition, the NMA evaluated the degree to which the states spend that money on true highway projects. Using the results from a comprehensive third-party survey of transportation officials from all 50 states, the NMA assigned a financial responsibility grade for each state based on the following criteria:

ā€œOur analysis shows the states that target motorists the most through predatory speed traps are also the ones that charge motorists the highest fees and taxes to use the roads,ā€ said NMA President Gary Biller.

ā€œThese states also have fewer checks and balances when it comes to dedicating this revenue strictly to maintaining roads and bridges. Motorists should be asking their public officials, ā€˜What are we getting for our money?'ā€

State statutes dedicating road-user fees to roads are frequently amended to shift funds to general purpose.State statutes dedicating road-user fees to roads are frequently amended to shift funds to general purpose.

Road-user fees cover costs for road and bridge planning, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance, and overhead without regard to state vs. local jurisdiction.

Funding of transit projects as well as for highway patrol or other policing activities was not considered a direct road-use investment for this analysis.

Biller pointed out that since the 1970s many states have weakened constitutional protections for dedicated road-user fees, allowing them to be funneled into public transit projects.

He added that state statutes dedicating road-user fees to roads are frequently amended to shift funds to general purpose. ā€œThe countryā€™s highway infrastructure is in crisis, yet states permit policymakers to divert road-user fees in varying degrees to non-highway pet projects.ā€

The 15 worst speed trap states and their records in collecting road-user fees and in applying those funds toward critical highway infrastructure are listed in the table below.Information for all 50 states can be found here.