But the department faces a $600 million funding gap in the next two-year budget cycle. And with Americans driving fewer miles in more efficient vehicles, it’s facing a 20 percent decline over the next decade in fuel tax revenues, the DOT’s single largest source of funding.
“We are falling behind,” Gottlieb said.
The Legislature hasn’t approved an increase for the fuel tax since 1997, and the 30.9 cent tax hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since 2006.
Gottlieb highlighted recommendations of the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, which called for an additional $680 million a year to maintain current system. About 96 percent of that money would go toward improving roads and closing the current funding deficit; the rest would be split among other modes, such as rail, water, air, bike and pedestrian.
The goal of the town hall meetings, Gottlieb said, is to get feedback on transportation needs and how the state should finance those needs into the future.
Public opinions were strong, if not necessarily in agreement.
Some called for better support for passenger rail; others complained that crumbling rural roads and bridges are preventing farmers from getting their crops to market.
Matthew Christen, who said he’s put 17,000 miles on his bicycle in the past six years, called on the DOT to recognize bicycles as a bona fide mode of transportation.
Related: Asymcar 7: The Transportationist.