Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on finding a plan to fix deteriorating highway system:
It is not hard to see the need for more highway funding.
We see it in the potholes and dangerous curves on our existing roads.
We see it in the long-awaited road projects – such as the I-73/74 corridor through southern West Virginia – that never seem to make it off the drawing boards.
In West Virginia, a blue ribbon commission has concluded that the state needs an additional $1.7 billion a year to maintain and expand the state’s highway system. A third of West Virginia’s major roads are either in poor or mediocre condition, according to the study, and about 35 percent of the state’s bridges need to be repaired or replaced.
But even after a couple of years of debate, the state is struggling building a consensus on how to generate even a small portion of that.
The National Governors Association meeting at The Greenbrier resort last week made it clear that the Mountain State is not alone. Congress has been slow to retool federal highway funding methods. Funding to states is not only not growing, it has declined about 3.5 percent over the past few years.
The main stream of national revenue is the federal tax motorists and truckers pay on each gallon of gas. But that rate has not changed since 1993, and people are driving less per capita and cars are more fuel efficient. Meanwhile, road construction costs have been steadily rising.
Certainly, Congress needs to come up with a plan to raise the rate, but many states are not just waiting around.
“I guess the message for Congress is: We understand that’s not popular,” said Republican Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, according to the Associated Press. “But we did it anyway, and took the political hits that go with that.”
Wyoming was one of six states and the District of Columbia that passed legislation in 2013 to raise state gas taxes. Three more states followed suit in 2014, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several other governors at the meeting shared highway funding plans they are working on.
West Virginia lawmakers should take note. Even though no funding solution will be popular, it is time to stop kicking the can down the road and come up with a plan to begin fixing our deteriorating highway system.