An Inconvenient Truth About Crumbling Roads

See that pothole-riddled city street in front of your house? Not the state’s problem.

More likely, those crumbling city streets – like those in this video of Milwaukee – are your local municipality’s responsibility. Those advocating for an increase in the gas tax would love if this minor, but crucial, detail is left out of the discussion.

The gas tax doesn’t pay for most city streets. Those crumbling streets will still be there, even if the gas tax was doubled – which is what it would take to assuage the gas tax crowd’s demands that all projects proceed on-time with no bonding.

As we’ve seen in La Crosse, cities, counties, and towns are failing to properly prioritize spending. Instead of ensuring local roads are kept up, local bureaucrats and boards are busy wasting taxpayer money on lavish new office buildings and exorbitant salaries. La Crosse County doubled its debt to $110 million in 2015, and scarcely a dime went to roads.

In Milwaukee, the city unearthed $60 million for a ridiculous fixed-rail trolley, but can’t seem to maintain its nearly 1,000 miles of city streets.

Over at the MacIver Institute, reporter Bill Osmulski explains.

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.
  • Frank Lineberger

    The “fixed-rail trolley” isn’t what’s absurd, the subsidization of rural conservative voters’ lifestyles who think the roads in front of their suburban/rural homes are paid for by their gas taxes in combination with their property taxes is what’s absurd. In the county I recently moved from, and every county in the nation, you can allocate 100% of the property taxes paid by people living on rural county roads to the residents of those roads and they still would fall short in paying for maintenance and life cycle reconstruction costs of the roads that serve them. Using the famous libertarian fraud and “transportation expert” (pffft) Randal O’Toole’s analysis of public transit and “fixed-rail trolleys,” when these suburban/rural residents pull out of their driveways, they are “subsidized” at minimum $4 per vehicle per mile, given the traffic counts of the average rural/low density suburban road and the property taxes paid by those residents in combination with the length and cost of fixing their publicly subsidized extra long driveways. The “fixed-rail trolley” is more economical—yes Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Rochester—than all suburban and rural roads. Let the gas taxes pay for policing the roads which, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics occupies 46% of a department’s time on average, and we will see where people “prefer” to live. It is long past due for the market to discipline Mr. Rochester’s and Mr. O’Toole’s lifestyle choices by making them pay for the roads they use. Further, many transit agencies are tasked with providing their own police force in large metropolitan areas; why not ask that gas taxes be increased so they cover part of police departments budgets, say ~45% give or take, minus the paltry sum the average department receives in ticket revenues of course (which was $2 million out of my departments’ $35 million dollar budget last year)? Come on you hack libertarians, let the contradictions keep flowing!