Like many people, I have a long commute to get into work each day. On this journey, I travel back and forth on quite a few Interstate miles containing the telltale indicators of wear and tear – potholes, cracks, patches and the like.
Over the course of this driving time I’ve come to know the roads so well I’ve created a “pothole plan”—a strategy that allows for lane changes at just the right locations to avoid the worst of these worn spots. At Mile Marker 90 I know to be in the middle lane, for example.
This plan serves a great personal purpose, as I aim to limit the damage of so many miles of rough road. My car has some age on it, but it’s served me well for many years, and best of all, I don’t have a car payment. As a nation, we’ve been trending to keep our cars longer, opting to maintain them as long as we can. In keeping mine maintained I’ve opted to properly fix things, rather than just sticking on a bandage. I also fix things at the first indication of a problem instead of waiting until I’m stuck on the side of the road. It’s common sense and it’s simple.
Covering the road-building segment for Equipment World as I do, a parallel comes to mind. Members of Congress are being lazy by putting us into yet another short-term extension of providing for the Highway Trust Fund to end July 31. Luck has favored politicians over the years because the highway system has been able to limp along and function with the 30+ extensions they’ve issued. But the time has come for these leaders to properly fix transportation funding.
From watching and writing about the recent House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee hearings and transportation funding, it’s become clear that members of both parties agree we need a long-term plan. They just can’t agree on how to do it.
But here’s the funny thing—they’ve been able to agree on keeping the system running just as it has for each of these extensions. And the mainstay of these extensions is the gas tax—the very thing that divides members of both chambers over long-term funding.
Since things must be made simple for our legislators, the best suggestion for them is to pull the trigger and increase the gas tax. And for long-term purposes, indexing the gas tax for inflation. This idea is favored by groups such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA), one of the biggest organizations affected by the gas tax. ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in his statement to the Ways and Means Committee: “We know the fuel tax works,” he said, “and it would continue to be viable for years if the rate were raised.”
Keep it simple, senators and representatives. There is no need to overthink this. Our highway system is our collective paid-for vehicle. Use the gas tax and fix things now. Or we’ll all be stuck on the side of the road with nothing but rubble beneath our wheels.