Healthcare and education dominate much of the talk when Louisiana lawmakers grind out the annual budget, but another important facet of our state remains relegated to the backburner – and it needs to change.
Inadequate and decaying infrastructure has been a problem consistent with every part of the state, and it is an issue that affects every man, woman – and even child – across Louisiana.
From potholes in highways to roadways unable to accommodate huge traffic tie-ups at the end of the day, the state faces a problem that obviously will not fix itself. In fact, the age of many roadways and bridges only warrant that things will get worse.
It explains the reason state Department of Transportation Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson wants lawmakers to find ways to create more funding for construction of new highways and to improve the already existing roadways.
In Livingston Parish, we do not need reminders of how tough the commute has become. Whether it’s the drive along Interstate 12 or U.S. 190 during rush hour, or if it’s the simple drive down Range Avenue in Denham Springs, La. 16 in Watson or La. 447 in Walker, we can see that the growth of our parish has put a deep strain on the thoroughfares.
It’s the same hassle our neighbors in Baton Rouge endure, as well as those in Hammond, Lafayette, New Orleans … it goes on and on.
The growing concerns about traffic congestion have not gone unnoticed by lawmakers, including our local delegation. It’s a much murkier situation when the question arises of how we pay for it.
The mindset in the Legislature clearly does not favor any move for additional taxation. At the same time, the state does not have the money to accommodate the ever-growing list of traffic issues.
Wilson has hinted that a hike in the gasoline tax may be the best route the state can take to fix the problem.
He said the 16-cent gasoline tax does not pack the same punch as it did 30 years ago. In fact, the rate of inflation has reduced it to around 7.5 cents per gallon in comparison to the amount voters approved in 1987.
He has also opened discussion on toll roads and private/public partnerships on highways, a move which has worked well in other states. TIFF-funded road projects have also brought improvements to the metropolitan areas of Lafayette and Monroe.
We doubt lawmakers will give much consideration to a measure that would potentially hike the gasoline tax. An added tax burden on residents who already have issues ranging from rising healthcare to flood recovery does not bode well in the current landscape.
It does not make the road problems any better, however.
Our infrastructure, in essence, affects every aspect of our lives. It’s something we take for granted, yet we realize the impact once a road is closed.
It also affects us economically. Companies look for areas with sound infrastructure to help them transport their products more efficiently.
States with solid infrastructure will draw the eyes of large companies, while those with poor streets and highways will continue to struggle.
We have logged many miles on substandard roads, but we now approach the route in which we must decide which direction we take.
Either we bite the bullet and pay more for our roadways, or we watch our infrastructure grow even worse.
In terms of the future on our infrastructure, we have reached the proverbial fork in the road.