In his Aug. 23 column about transportation funding, political science associate professor Jeff Sadow embarrassed himself by showing how little he knows on the subject. Sadow states that “the problem, at least recently, never has been about a lack of money available but about setting priorities for transportation money and spending it well.” Sadow obviously doesn’t understand basic facts about the Louisiana Transportation Trust Fund and that our state gas and diesel tax is a per-gallon tax and not based on the price at the pump. Since the tax per gallon has not been increased in 25 years, revenue into the TTF have not kept pace with inflation and the cost increases for materials, equipment and labor.
Sadow also seems to be unaware of the method required by law and used by the Department of Transportation and Development to plan improvement projects. Each year, DOTD considers road conditions, traffic information, engineering analysis and public input to plan projects. This plan is then vetted by a series of public meetings throughout the state for public review and comment before going to the Legislature for final approval. For integrity purposes at this point, legislators can delete, but cannot add projects. Because DOTD doesn’t have enough money to meet its backlog of needs, many worthy projects must be deferred to future years. So while Sadow speculates that policy-makers prefer new construction over maintenance, the fact is that maintenance projects are only limited by the funds available to do the work, not the whims of politicians.
Sadow also makes the assertion that, seven years ago, Louisiana had the 13th-highest per-capita spending on roads in the country, suggesting that Louisiana has plenty of money for transportation. Although Sadow is in Shreveport, surely he heard about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of south Louisiana roads and bridges, which required billions of dollars in federal emergency funds. Just replacing the I-10 twin spans cost nearly $1 billion. Ignoring such an important piece of data in an analysis tends to call other “facts” into question.
Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association stands by our recommendations for an improved transportation system in Louisiana. We must stop paying the “bad road tax” and support additional state revenue for the TTF, which would be used only for transportation improvement projects. A 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax would cost the average driver less than a dollar a week. Properly investing in our transportation system is vital to the economic well-being of our citizens and to their quality of life.
Kenneth A. Perret
president, Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association