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Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, checks messages on his cell phone at his desk on the House floor before the House convened in April 2017.

Advocate Staff File Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

When Steve Carter called for a show of hands on the question, "Who likes paying taxes?," the Baton Rouge state representative got no takers.

Not surprising.

But we need more taxes for Louisiana's infrastructure, the roads and bridges and other structures central to economic growth.

Carter, a Republican, knew that he did not have to ask his audience at the Press Club of Baton Rouge that they want traffic relief. It is one of the worst cities in America for ease of travel.

In May, Carter said, a national navigation and mapping company called Tom Tom released its 2017 Traffic Index. It which ranked Baton Rouge the 13th most congested city in America, ahead of Chicago, Austin, and Houston.

Among mid-sized cities on the list, Baton Rouge ranked 2nd worst, behind Honolulu, an island city with big tourist populations, so a place with unusual mobility problems. In any case, Carter said Honolulu is just on the cusp of achieving large city status.

So Baton Rouge is really No. 1 for this dubious distinction, or soon will be. That's another reason why the Legislature should have adopted some form of transportation funding program, as Carter proposed unsuccessfully in the 2017 session.

Of course, drivers in Baton Rouge are not alone in Louisiana in dealing with traffic congestion. New Orleans scores 20th worst in the nation in the same report. Drivers on Johnston Street in Lafayette also know of their difficulties daily.

Across Louisiana, we have horrible traffic problems, crumbling roads, and thousands of unsafe bridges crossing our rivers and bayous.

Unfortunately, need is not enough to make funding a political priority.

We supported the Carter bill, even as in the maneuvering in the state House it became festooned with amendments and rate adjustments seeking to get those few more votes needed — 70 of the 105-member chamber, a high bar compared to most states.

Excuses abound for inaction, but the daily costs to drivers is ridiculous. Carter noted that in some areas, the annual cost of car repairs and delays work out to $2,500 per vehicle. If his bill had passed at the full 17 cents proposed, it would cost the average driver $113 a year, he said.

Doing the math, apparently, is no longer a driver of political action in the State Capitol, either.

Louisiana's growth in the future is being inhibited by problems with vehicle transportation, not to mention support of the major ports in the state. Our day-to-day problems with traffic are secondary to that larger imperative.

And business competitiveness, it also appears, is not enough to make transportation a political priority in the Legislature.