Virginians are buying less gas but driving more miles. For transportation officials, that’s a problem.

Virginians are buying less gas but driving more miles. For transportation officials, that’s a problem.
Traffic. (Source: WBRC Staff)

For the first time ever, Virginians are paying less in gas taxes while driving more, a worrisome milestone for transportation officials concerned about how they’ll pay for roads in a more fuel-efficient future.

At a Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting in Richmond last week, state officials said they support technological advances that lead to a cleaner environment, while warning that policymakers across the country have to figure out how to replace the lost gas money.

“We’re fully on board with all of that coming forward in our future,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “We’re just trying to very realistic and honest. There is a real impact to sustainability in transportation.”

Between fiscal years 2016 and 2018, vehicle miles traveled increased 3.2 percent. Over the same period, gas tax revenue was down 0.4 percent, according to a Virginia Department of Transportation presentation. Had fuel tax collections grown at the same pace as driving, the state would have taken in another $31.3 million in fiscal 2018.

Motor fuels taxes are the third-largest non-federal source of transportation funding in Virginia, generating $857.2 million out of $3.4 billion in state revenues for fiscal 2018, according to VDOT, behind retail sales taxes and taxes on vehicle sales.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.