America's crumbling roads: Time for a gas tax hike?

Who's going to fix the roads?
Who's going to fix the roads?

With money running out to fix America's crumbling roads and bridges, and a fight looming in Congress over how to fund those repairs, one former governor told CNBC that a federal gas tax hike is needed, and fast.

If the government "kicks the can down the road" by delaying funding the Highway Trust Fund, "we're going to miss next year's construction cycle, which is going to really contribute to the roads getting even worse and bridges in dangerous, dangerous condition," former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told "Street Signs."

Based on current spending trends, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it expects the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund to run out of money before the end of the fiscal year 2014.

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America's roads and bridges are in dire need of repair: 33 percent of major roads are in "poor or mediocre" condition and 25 percent of bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete," according to the transportation research and lobbying group TRIP.

Members of the Boston Public Works Department fill potholes.
Scott Eelis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"We used to be No. 1 in infrastructure according to a group called the World Economic Forum. We're now sixteenth," said Rendell, also an NBC News political analyst and CNBC contributor. "We're a pathetic case when you look at our competition."

On Capitol Hill, both sides of the aisle don't appear ready to raise the gas tax, which hasn't gone up in 20 years. It is still just above 18 cents a gallon.

On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, ""We have never proposed or a supported a gas tax." Republican House Speaker John Boehner also opposes an increase.

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For Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at CATO Institute, the solution is to phase out the federal gas tax and have the states fund transportation.

"Problems are better fixed closer to home," he told "Street Signs." "When the federal government is involved you get bridges to nowhere, you get pork, you get corruption. It just doesn't work."

However, with interstate highways carrying cars through multiple states, Rendell said that won't work.

"We have to have some sort of national transportation network," he said, and while states have raised taxes, "it's simply not enough."

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—By CNBC's Michelle Fox. Reuters contributed to this report.