Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

July 5, 2014

OUR VIEW: Road fund shortage hitting close to home

Fallout from the looming shortage in the federal Highway Trust Fund has already begun, and it's being felt close to home: Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday that $185 million in road construction projects are being delayed, including the continued widening of the infamous stretch of Interstate 65 between Bowling Green and Elizabethtown.

Although projects in Kentucky are affected, the fullness of the state's piggybank isn't the problem – Kentucky has more than $500 million set aside in its road fund, according to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock. But that money would disappear quickly without expected reimbursements from the federal fund.

The Highway Trust Fund survives on the federal gas tax, which has been the same for 21 years. Nothing else about the American fuel market is the same as it was 21 years ago, though. Inflation and oil prices have sent gas prices soaring, vehicles are generally more fuel-efficient and the population tends to drive less. So the fuel tax is considerably less effective – or, it could be argued, essentially ineffective, considering the fund's needle is rapidly approaching “E.”

Recently, we wrote that Americans should prepare to hand over even more money to correct the funding problem. That's still probably inevitable. Some have suggested cutting other services or programs and redirecting that money to the trust fund, but the long-term viability of some such recommendations is unclear. Seems to us that the best way to establish a lasting revenue source for the trust fund is to bring the federal gas tax into the current decade – a move that few in Washington want to make. States could be asked to raise their own gas taxes – and some have already done so – but that's equally fraught with political pitfalls.

So we wait for Congress to choose our adventure, and we hope we aren't waiting long. The dangerous stretch of I-65 that runs through a portion of our county is just one of many projects around the nation that demand attention. Whatever the ultimate solution, we hope this is a moment when political maneuvering takes a back seat to addressing a legitimate, immediate need.

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