Every morning, in countless homes across Indiana, Hoosiers play out their usual routine. A daily commute, getting the kids to school, going to the store for groceries or maybe heading to church may be your routine.
But how many bad roads and bridges now stand in the way of your daily routine? Roads are littered with potholes. Many bridges are rated for such low weights that school buses and farm equipment can’t safely cross. Roads are being converted back to gravel from pavement.
Why do the roads seem to be in worse shape than in the past? First, the network that we’ve relied upon for decades is falling apart. Much of Indiana’s transportation infrastructure was built in the 1950s and after a 50 to 60 year life span, is simply due to be replaced.
Second, the user-fee system of road and bridge repair has not kept pace with inflation or technology. Fuel efficiency in vehicles and inflation has undermined the per-gallon fuel tax, and only 1 cent of the 7 percent sales tax on gasoline is currently used to fund roads.
The Association of Indiana Counties has long advocated for a long-term, sustainable solution to the ongoing shortfall in funding for maintenance of roads in our state.
Nearly 90 percent of all roads miles in our state are maintained by local units of government, 70 percent of which are county roads. Our members have heard clearly the demands of Hoosiers for safe and reliable roads and bridges.
However, at current funding levels, maintenance and replacement of our vital infrastructure is falling behind.
House Bill 1001, as it passed the Indiana House of Representatives, is the long-term and sustainable road funding legislation that the Association of Indiana Counties has long requested.
Indexing per-gallon fuel and diesel taxes to current buying power and shifting a large part of the state sales tax on gasoline to transportation infrastructure is a responsible return to the user fee funding of roads and bridges.
This funding, dedicated by law to being spent on transportation infrastructure costs, would allow counties to make thoughtful, sustained investment over time to improve the system as a whole.
The time for investment in our roads is now. The sooner repairs are made, the cheaper they are. A study completed for the Brookings Institute determined that every $1 spent on preventive maintenance saves between $4 and $10 in future repairs.
By investing in our infrastructure, there will be an easier road ahead for Hoosiers.
Ryan Hoff is director of government relations and general counsel for the Association of Indiana Counties.