Funding Road Repairs
We know that during recessions, revenue at the state and local level falls. Elected officials and policymakers scramble to find ways to close the budget shortfall, and they look for programs and areas to cut. Community leaders fight for education and social spending, and they are correct when they tell how cuts affect future generations and the disadvantaged.
Virginia is facing a similar budget battle. Notably, Governor Bob McDonnell vetoed legislation which included funding for public television right before departing for a long trip to Asia. Local media has been able to shed some light on how the budget battles, spending cuts, and declining revenue have affected individuals. This past weekend, several outlets have picked up a story on how declining revenue and budget cuts has severely hampered our Commonwealth’s highways and roads.
According to reports, Virginia’s $318.3 million budget for road repairs is inadequate to cover all the necessary repairs and maintenance. For needed repairs, VDOT estimates $708.9 million is needed. This makes the budgeted funds inadequate by over half. VDOT blames the shortfall partly on the recession which has vastly reduced revenues.
Other disappointing news shows that over one third of secondary roads are deficient. This total is higher than the deficiency percentage of the highway system. Officials have stated that next year’s budget will have $2.6 billion for transportation, as part of $11.6 billion in capital improvements for 2012-2017.
The increase of funding is good news, as the next five years will see increased transportation funding. However, road maintenance has become increasingly essential as increased traffic and harsher weather has deteriorated our roads. It will be important to monitor the progress in the state of highways in the coming years to ensure they are adequate and up to par.
One important policy point: the gasoline tax has not been raised since 1987. At $0.175 cents per gallon, the main source of revenue for our Commonwealth’s transportation fund has proven inadequate during this economic downturn.
Richmond should explore the connection between revenue and funding for our transportation system, especially through such measures as the gas tax that are directly connected to the roads themselves. No one likes tax increases, but crumbling infrastructure is even worse-for our residents’s quality of life, and for the commerce that must travel over our roads.