Transportation Economic Trends
Government Transportation Revenues and Expenditures:
Government Transportation Revenue
Government transportation revenue comes from several sources, including user fees, transportation related taxes, and general revenues. This revenue funds government transportation expenditures on critical activities, like building highways, operating the Nation’s air traffic control system, and maintaining transit facilities.
2017 Year-in-Review (latest available)
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Government Transportation Financial Statistics:
- In 2017 federal, state, and local revenue collected and dedicated to transportation programs totaled $355.4 billion (in 2017 dollars).
- Federal transportation revenue accounted for one-quarter ($91.5 billion) of total transportation revenue collected in 2017. State and local government transportation revenue accounted for the remainder ($263.9 billion).
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Government Transportation Financial Statistics (GTFS) aggregates data from a variety of sources to provide information on transportation-related revenue for all levels of government and for all modes of transportation. Data are also available for government transportation expenditures.
Total Government Transportation Revenue
For reporting, government transportation revenue is classified into two categories:
1. Own-source revenue: taxes and charges levied on transportation-related activities and used specifically for transportation, for example motor fuel taxes.
2. Supporting revenue: funds collected from non-transportation-related activities but dedicated to support transportation programs, e.g., receipts received by state and local governments from sales or property taxes. It excludes funds raised from transportation-related activities but used to finance programs other than transportation.
Borrowing is not considered transportation revenue and is not included in the totals.
State and local government transportation revenue from all sources accounts for about three-quarters of total government transportation revenue. Federal transportation revenue from all sources accounts for the remaining quarter of total government transportation revenue.
Own-Source Government Transportation Revenue by Level of Government and Mode
The following presents government transportation revenue collected, by mode, from taxes and charges levied on transportation activities (own-source revenue).
Federal Transportation Own-Source Revenue by Mode
Highway and aviation, which have trust funds supported by dedicated taxes, account for nearly all of federal transportation own-source revenue.
State and Local Government Own-Source Transportation Revenue by Mode
Most of state and local government transportation own-source revenue comes from highway sources.
Transportation Trust Funds
Trust funds are a source of dedicated revenue, accounting for a majority of federal own-source transportation revenue.
Highway Trust Fund
The Highway Trust Fund (HTF), established by the Highway Revenue Act of 1956, is the source of revenue for the interstate highway system and other federal-aid highway programs. The HTF derives its revenue primarily from the Federal motor fuel tax (18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel fuel as of 2020), in addition to other Federal taxes on truck users and interest on invested balances.
The HTF has two accounts, the Highway Account, which provides funds for road construction and related surface transportation projects, and the Mass Transit Account, which supports mass transit. Congress has authorized multiple fund transfers – primarily from the general fund – to keep the fund balance from falling below zero.
Airport and Airway Trust Fund
The Airport and Airway Trust Fund, also known as the Aviation Trust Fund and established by The Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970, helps finance the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) investments in the airport and airway system, such as construction and safety improvements at airports and technological upgrades to the air traffic control system, as well as FAA operations, such as providing air traffic control and conducting safety inspections.
Harbor Maintenance Tax and Inland Waterways Trust Fund
The Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) and Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), established by the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, funds the operation and maintenance of Federal ports and harbors, primarily for maintenance dredging, dredged material disposal areas, jetties, and breakwaters. The HMT is charged against the value of imports and domestic cargo arriving at U.S. ports that have federally-maintained harbors and channels and deposited into the HMTF.
The Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), established by the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, funds construction and major rehabilitation projects on federally designated inland waterways. Funds come from the inland waterway user on commercial barge fuel used on federally designated waterways.
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at www.bts.gov/product/transportation-economic-trends.