Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

It’s time to address our roads and bridges

February 17, 2015
Riverside, Iowa

To the Editor:
There is an important debate taking place in our Senate and our House at the Iowa Capitol. Having served on the House Transportation Committee while serving as a state representative, I am fully aware of the needs and the necessity of more road and bridge funding. The Time 21 study taken previous to 2008 showed a shortfall of $215 million to $220 million per year available for minimum upkeep to our roads and bridges. We tried to address those needs at that time but were not successful other than raising some additional funding through increased vehicle registration fees. Since that time, we are more than a billion dollars short of the funding needed, and we continue to kick the can down the road. The gas tax (user fee) is now at 22 cents per gallon in Iowa and has not been changed since 1989. Costs of replacing and repairing have had a substantial rise since then. Gov. Branstad said he would increase efficiency in those areas, and claims are made that those efforts saved $50 million to $60 million, still well short of the $215 million needed.
We all want good roads and safe bridges to drive on, as well as the safety considerations for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. A well-kept infrastructure will also help in attracting new businesses to Iowa and in keeping those that we have at the present. New business enterprises in Iowa bring more jobs as well as better-paying jobs. These are important considerations for Iowa in competing with those states that surround us.
Many of our pavements were constructed in the 1960-1970 timeframe. Many are now in need of resurfacing or replacement.
There are several options for raising funding for roads. These include:
1. County bonding — Washington already has over $10 million in bonding. There are some counties with over $30 million and a county citizen debt of over $3,600 per person. These bonds are paid off through the use of higher property taxes, which in turn reflect in higher rents as well.
2. Toll roads for through traffic — Iowans appreciate free travel through Iowa. Presently, out-of-state drivers do not contribute funding to our roads beyond the 22 cents in gas tax or the tax on diesel fuel. An increase in the fuel tax would allow them to help us with road upkeep. Nearly 23 percent of travelers crossing our state are from out of state.
3. Higher vehicle registration — this option cannot raise enough funding and is unfair to those who do little driving.
4. An increase in user fees (gas tax). This appears to be the fairest way and is reflected by how much the driver spends for fuel and the amount of miles that he uses the roads. This could be fine-tuned as we get more electric cars on the road as well as high-efficiency cars. If a driver doesn’t drive many miles, the cost could be minimal. If the driver drives a lot of miles, the cost will be greater — but still in proportion to the miles traveled — thus more wear and tear on the roads. Iowa is currently nearly 8 cents below the surrounding states.
A 10-cent gas tax would be protected through a constitutionally protected Road Use Tax Fund. There are not currently enough dollars flowing into Iowa’s treasury beyond school needs, health needs, etc., to have much left for our troubled roads and bridges.
Let your Senator or Representative know that you care about the future of Iowa and ask them to support a gas tax increase of 10 cents per gallon. Could the timing be better with the drop in gas prices at the pump?
Thank you,
Larry Marek
Former State
Representative of Iowa