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Infrastructure Lesson 8

Lesson 8: Are Fuel Efficient Cars Destroying Our Roads?


This one-day lesson taps into the infrastructure of transportation in an attempt to address the growing funding crisis of roads given falling gas tax revenues in light of fuel efficient hybrids and electric vehicles. Students will study the economic concepts of public goods and externalities in the context of competing desires for both well maintained transportation infrastructure and encouraging environmental protection and stewardship. Students will explore different funding options and both the benefits and drawbacks of each method. The lesson is designed to take roughly 50-60 minutes, though can be extended through in class research looking into actual legislation that has passed or is currently being considered to address this issue as multiple states are grappling with this changing transportation paradigm.


  1. Define key terms: transportation infrastructure, public goods, externalities.
  2. Explain the current methods for funding transportation infrastructure and the reason why that method is unsustainable in light of technological improvements in fuel efficiency.
  3. Brainstorm and justify using economics alternative funding for the future of transportation.


  1. Opening discussion question.
  2. Read handout about road maintenance funding crisis and the definitions of public goods and externalities.
  3. Pair discussion surrounding brainstorming options for funding.
  4. Go over answers as a class and analyze the pros/cons of each funding option.
  5. Role play showing perspectives of each group affected by road funding discussions.
  6. After completing the role-play activity, research the actual legislation surrounding road funding in the local state, region or city in which the students live.


  1. Full Lesson Plan - Includes Lesson Overview, Teacher Instructions, and Student Handouts.
  2. Teacher Instructions
  3. Student Handouts
The design, development, validation and publication of these infrastructure teaching modules was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Grant #1334292, and the Global Projects Center at Stanford University. All opinions and conclusions expressed in this paper reflect the views of the author/s, and not necessarily the views of these sponsors.