A common theme of debate when discussing bike lane and pedestrian construction projects is the question of who pays for roads in the first place. Detractors of those who wish to walk, take transit, or ride bikes to transport themselves often claim that only those who own and drive cars pay for roads. The idea that cyclists should be licensed and insured is brought up also. So, just how are road projects funded?
One of the more common ways municipal roads are funded is via new developments. A developer building a subdivision has to construct the roads for the new lots, and has to pay “Development Cost Charges” (DCC) to the municipality they are in for future road works. The money to fund this road construction and pay the development cost charges is passed on to those who buy the new lots. Thus, homeowners are paying for these roads. If the houses are rented, or the new project is multi-family including rentals, then renters are paying for these roads. Whether any of these people have cars or ride bikes is immaterial – the cost of the infrastructure is included in the new home / apartment price.
Road expansion projects in municipalities in BC are typically funded by a combination of municipal funds (drawn from taxes and DCCs), Provincial grant funds and Federal grant funds. The largest share of Federal revenue in Canada is personal income tax at 48.1 % of all revenue. A fund that is often cited as paying for roads is the Federal Gas tax, however this makes up less than 5% of all Federal revenue, and totals only $2 billion per year of Federal Revenue. It is estimated that road maintenance costs in Canada, including expansion projects, total some $12 billion dollars per year.
Who pays for the roads? The answer is everyone pays for the roads, and if the revenue derived strictly from vehicle related taxes were to become the only source of funds used for roadworks, we would have a lot less roads and bridges to drive on.
Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or www.wedler.com.