Where to find money to fix the bridges

Once again, I turn to Al’s Morning Meeting from today for a great post full of suggested sources.  He gives a good overview of the problem and what other states have tried as a solution. 

It’s not only about bridges but roads as well are rapidly rising to the top of the infrastructure maintenance problem.  Al’s column lists the AASHTO site to give you some idea of the scope of the problem.  That’s American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. 

Here’s some information from the Poynter column, which came from AASHTO:

“The biggest hurdle to improving roads is that federal gasoline taxes, which pay for more than 45 percent of the nation’s transportation infrastructure, have not been raised since 1993 and are not even sufficient to cover the spending in the 2005 federal transportation law. While gasoline prices have skyrocketed to more than $3 a gallon, federal taxes to support road work have not because the 18.4-cent federal tax is added on each gallon — not each dollar — of gas sold. Federal gas taxes will fall $11 billion short of planned road projects by 2009, but the gap could be as big as $19 billion the following year, AASHTO found.

A longer-term problem is that the cost of building and fixing roads has grown rapidly in recent years. Between the last gas-tax hike in 1993 and 2015, construction costs will have increased by more than 70 percent, according to AASHTO. Federal gas taxes would have to go up at least 3 cents by 2009 and 7 cents more by 2015 just to maintain the current highway system and keep pace with the fast-rising cost of roads, the association estimates.

Instead of raising the federal gasoline tax, U.S. Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) introduced a bill, just hours before the Minnesota bridge catastrophe, to create an independent national bank to provide government financing for major infrastructure projects.

Some states have been willing to raise taxes for road construction. Fifteen states have hiked fees at the pump since 1997, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. Also this year, Minnesota lawmakers heard testimony about the state cutting the number of bridge inspectors it has on the job. That would be something for you to look into in your state: How many inspectors are in the field now versus, say, a few years ago?”


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