How Will America Rebuild Its Infrastructure?

With so much at stake, over the days and weeks ahead the CBS Evening News will be taking a closer look at the Tough Choices the country will be facing to reduce the debt and deficit. (Scroll down to vote your opinion on the issue)



Gasoline now averages $2.86 per gallon. That includes about $0.18 in federal taxes. The president's debt commission is proposing an additional tax that would raise the price another $0.15. In this economy drivers are hurting but so are the roads.

The Challenge: How to maintain America's deteriorating freeways, bridges and transit systems without driving the federal deficit further into the ditch.

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports the country's interstates and urban transit are supported by a federal gas tax, adding $0.18 per gallon to gas many Americans find too high already.

"It's just getting really expensive," says a driver.

CBS Evening News Series: "Tough Choices"

The gas tax raised $30 billion last year. The government spent almost $38 billion on highway construction and maintenance. Congress had to pump in $7 billion, adding to the deficit.

Why the shortfall? When the tax was revved up in 1956 Americans were driving gas guzzlers. Now we're more fuel efficient with hybrids on the road, electric cars in showrooms.

In this recession, Americans are driving less, 14.7 billion fewer miles than 2006. Brandi Hall used to drive 100 miles round trip to work. Because of high gas prices she now takes the train.

"I did the calculations and I probably save between $200 and $300 a month," she says.

It's all good for the environment but buying less gas means fewer tax dollars for highways and transit.

The Choices:
There are three choices and they're tough:

1) Do nothing and continue deficit spending;

2) Sharply cut funding, putting our infrastructure at risk;

3) As the presidential deficit commission proposes, raise the gas tax as much as $0.15 per gallon to fund our transportation needs.

"Don't raise gas," says Hall. "Come on!"

If we don't, expect highway and transit funds to fall $34 billion short over the next six years, 2.3 percent of the current federal deficit.

  • Bill Whitaker

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