REPORT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAY FINANCE, PROBLEMS OF FIANANCIAL ADMINISTRATION WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO LOCAL ROADS AND STREETS

IN 1936 APPROXIMATELY A QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS, OR ONE-FOURTH OF TOTAL STATE MOTOR VEHICLE COLLECTIONS, WERE DISTRIBUTED FOR LOCAL ROAD AND STREET PURPOSES. THE INCREASE IN THE PART OF THE TOTAL COLLECTIONS SO DISTRIBUTED HAS ONLY BEEN 3 PERCENT. THE AMOUNT OF STATE FUNDS SPENT ON STATE ROADS INCREASED BY ONLY 42 PERCENT AS COMPARED WITH THE 115 PERCENT INCREASE IN LOCAL ROAD APPORTIONMENTS. THERE HAS BEEN AN ACTUAL DECREASE OF 17 PERCENT IN THE SHARE OF TOTAL STATE TAXES SO USED. THIS DISCREPANCY RESULTS FROM A WHOLESALE USE OF FUNDS FOR OTHER THAN HIGHWAY PURPOSES. THE AMOUNTS AND METHODS OF DISTRIBUTING USER TAXES GOING TO LOCAL UNITS OF GOVERNMENT ARY WIDELY FROM STATE TO STATE. DISTRIBUTION AMONG THE LOCAL UNITS WAS BASED ON A VARIETY OF CRITERIA, INCLUDING POPULATION, AREA, VEHICLE REGISTRATIONS, VALUATION, TAX COLLECTIONS, ROAD MILEAGE, AND COMBINATIONS OF THESE FACTORS. SOME STATES DISTRIBUTED THE FUNDS EQUALLY AMONG THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. THESE METHODS OF LOCAL ROAD ALLOCATIONS OFTEN FAIL TO REFLECT PROPERLY THE NEEDS OF THE HIGHWAY SYSTEM AS A WHOLE. ECONOMIC ALLOCATION OF FUNDS REQUIRES THAT MONEY BE SPENT ACCORDING TO THE NEEDS OF TRAFFIC, EXPRESSED IN TERMS OF THE LOWEST POSSIBLE TOTAL COST OF TRANSPORTATION, WHICH INCLUDES NOT ONLY ROAD COSTS BUT VEHICLE OPERATING COSTS. IT IS NOT MERELY TOTAL TRAFFIC WHICH MUST BE CONSIDERED, BUT THE CONCENTRATION OF THIS TRAFFIC. IN DETERMINING PRIORITY FOR EXPENDITURE, BECAUSE OF THE INTEGRATION OF TRAFFIC ON SEVERAL ROAD SYSTEMS, IT IS ADVISABLE TO IMPROVE THE PRIMARY SYSTEM FIRST, SINCE IT CARRIES THE LARGEST AMOUNT OF CONCENTRATED TRAFFIC AND ITS IMPROVEMENT BRINGS ABOUT INCREASED TRAVEL AND INCREASED RECEIPTS FOR THE SUPPORT OF LOCAL ROADS. THE SPENDING OF STATE FUNDS BY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IS NOT ALWAYS TO BEST ADVANTAGE BECAUSE IT IS NOT PROPERLY CONTROLLED BY THE STATE. IN SEARCHING FOR THE PROPER SCOPE FOR HIGHWAY ACTIVITIES IT IS CONCLUDED THAT THERE MAY BE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATIVE UNIT AND THE ECONOMIC OPERATING UNIT: THAT THE FORMER MAY COMPRISE SEVERAL OF THE LATTER. OPERATING UNITS WHICH DO NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT TAXABLE WEALTH AND TRAFFIC MAY REQUIRE CONSOLIDATION BEFORE THEY ARE ABLE TO PERFORM THEIR FUNCTIONS ECONOMICALLY. THERE MUST BE SUFFICIENT ROAD WORK TO ALLOW EFFICIENT UTILIZATION OF EQUIPMENT, AND SUFFICIENT APPROPRIATIONS TO PROVIDE A COMPETENT ENGINEERING FORCE. RURAL COUNTY HIGHWAY UNITS MAY COMPRISE LARGE AREAS FOR ECONOMIC OPERATIONS WHILE THE URBAN COUNTY BE CONFINED TO A SMALL AREA. BECAUSE THE URBAN COUNTY IS USUALLY PART OF A LARGER METROPOLITAN AREA CONTAINING OTHER COUNTIES, PRIVISION IS NEEDED FOR CORRELATED ACTION, IN HIGHWAY PLANNING AND IN FIXING PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT PROGRAMS. CORRECTION OF THE WEAKNESSES OF LOCAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATIVE FINANCE HAS BEEN ATTEMPTED BY TRANSFER OF LOCAL ROADS TO STATE CONTROL. IN THE PAST 6 YEARS 21 STATES HAVE TAKEN OVER 172,000 MILES OF LOCAL ROADS, CONSTITUTING A 64 PERCENT INCREASE IN STATE MILEAGE. FOUR STATES ELIMINATED ALL LOCALLY ADMINISTERED RURAL HIGHWAYS, AND SHIFTED THE ROAD BURDEN FROM LAND TO MOTOR VEHICLE AND FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO THE STATE. ALTHOUGH THE ROAD CONSOLIDATION MOVEMENT WAS PRECIPITATED BY THE RECENT ECONOMIC DEPRESSION AS A MEANS OF RELIEVING PROPERTY OF THE ROAD TAX BURDEN, IT APPEARS THAT THE INHERENT FAILINGS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT HAVE BEEN UNDERLYING CAUSES OF THE MOVEMENT, FOR IN 1936 TEN STATES EFFECTED LOCAL ROAD TRANSFERS TO THEIR STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS, A LARGER NUMBER THAN IN ANY PREVIOUS YEAR. IT IS FELT THAT THE POLICY OF FEDERAL-AID APPROPRIATIONS FOR SECONDARY ROADS, AS WELL AS THE TREND TOWARD HIGHWAY PLANNING, WILL IN MANY CASES ACCENTUATE THE MOVEMENT FOR STATE ADMINISTRATION OF RURAL ROADS. /AUTHOR/

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Vol 17, ParT I, PP 15-31, 2 TAB, APP
  • Authors:
    • MACDONALD, T H
  • Publication Date: 1938

Media Info

  • Monograph Title: Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the Highway Research Board Held at Washington, D.C. November 30, December 1, 2, 3, 1937. Part I
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00201014
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Aug 15 1971 12:00AM