Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall says the gas tax needs to be raised – but he’s the first to admit that the idea is about as politically popular as a pothole.
The state gas tax, which is set aside for road funding, last went up in 1987 as part of the Four Lane Highway Program. The increase raised more than $3 billion over the next several years, paying for more than 1,000 miles of new four-lane highways in the state, Hall said.
Today, the state faces an estimated $30 billion in highway and bridge needs between 2008 and 2035, according to a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers. But assuming a “best-case” funding scenario, the state would only have $15.3 billion to spend over that same period, the report says.
In remarks at a Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership committee meeting on Friday, Hall rattled off status updates for a dozen or so ongoing projects before taking a detour that turned into something of a call to arms.
Politically, he said, “we’re not ready. We need to be moving on toward a new program, but it’s going to take the business community just like it did in ’87 to realize the importance of this and take a leadership role.