BY: Geoff Pender
Many of our roads and bridges are in poor shape and expected to get worse from lack of maintenance. On present course, experts predict more than half the state’s roads will be un-travelable by 2030.
Part of the problem is the state, with an ambitious road building program in the 1980s, added 3,000 miles of four-lane highways with no money programmed for maintenance. Plus, some were thinly paved to stretch out the miles. The hope was they could be beefed up later.
Another problem: State road funding is from a flat fuel tax of 18.4 cents a gallon, last raised 27 years ago. Cars get better mileage. Construction costs have risen about 300 percent.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have over the years raided or diverted hundreds of millions of transportation dollars to shore up other budgets.
Transportation leaders and a legislative watchdog group estimate the maintenance funding shortfall at $600 million to $400 million a year. Pulling that from elsewhere in the state budget, say education, would have disastrous effect.
The alternatives are to increase taxes or fees, borrow for a temporary fix or let the infrastructure continue to deteriorate and hope state revenue picks up enough to at least make patches.
A tax increase appears the most likely solution.