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County engineers welcome gas tax increase

By Staff | Mar 5, 2015

Paul Assman

“mailto:grovecorner@aol.com”>grovecorner@aol.com

DENISON – Iowa County Road’s President Paul Assman, of Denison, said Iowa county engineers are pleased with Gov. Terry Branstad’s signing of the 10-cents gas tax increase bill for funding of needed repair and maintenance of the state’s roadways.

Assman, who also serves as Crawford County engineer, said he expects to visit with Crawford County board of supervisors as soon as possible identifying the county’s most crucial maintenance and repair projects.

This is the state’s first gas tax increase since 1989.

It is estimated the increase will generate $215 million annually to be used on roadways and bridges within the state of Iowa, Assman said. “The funds will be allocated to the Iowa Department of Transportation (47 percent), counties (32.5 percent) and cities (20 percent).

-Farm news photo by Jolene Stevens THIS COUNTY GRAVEL road was closed after a late-February severe winter weather drifted snow across it. County engineers say roads are getting more expensive to maintain and supported the gas tax hike dedicated to improving rural roads and bridges.

“The 32.5 percent allocated to counties,” he said, “is split between the Secondary Road Fund (24 percent) and the Farm to Market Fund (8.5 percent). With the bill’s signing, the estimated annual fund increases to the Secondary Road Fund and the Farm to Market Fund are $54 million and $17 million, respectively.

“Crawford County will see estimated increases of $602,000 and $179,000 respectively in these two areas. With the gas tax increase effective March 1 counties should see revenue increases in their May or June allocations, he said.

In earlier interview Assman said bids opened recently for two Crawford County bridge replacement projects both exceeded estimates – one by 140 percent and the second by 125 percent – resulting in nearly $220,000 in additional resources if the county wanted the improvements.

In addition, he said, he needs funding for 66 of 257 posted bridges in the county now with weight restrictions and due for repair.

“With the increased gas tax funding in the Secondary Road Funding we can now move ahead to replace more bridges and at the same time utilize the additional Farm to Market revenue to construct pavement rehabilitation projects earlier than we had planned to do,” Assman said. “Current trends have resulted in a transportation network that has not kept pace with the industries served.

“This additional revenue will help advance projects to construction sooner and perhaps include projects that would not have otherwise been constructed.”

Woodbury County Engineer Mark Nahr said he, too, is satisfied to see the fuel tax increase, which he sees as the fairest method of funding infrastructure needs.

“It’s more or less a user fee,” Nahr said. “In our case being in a tri-state area as an example, the drivers using the roads including those from out of state are helping to construct highways and for needed maintenance and repair costs.”

Revenue, he said, is rightly coming from users of the highway system.

“The increased funding can now give us the opportunity to make up for some lost ground in repair and maintenance with our gravel roads, probably the greatest under-funded portion of our budget,” he said.

Woodbury County, he said, will consider approximately 20 to 25 miles of asphalt roads in need of immediate rehabilitation.

“We’re going to put the new money to good use,” Nahr said. “It’s still too early to know just where that’s headed.”

In a written statement, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill said, “Iowa families couldn’t afford to wait any longer and deserve better than driving across roads and bridges rated the worst in the country.”

He cited a report by TRIP, a national resource group, showing Iowa with more than 5,000 structurally deficient bridges, 10 percent of the state’s rural roads in poor condition and an additional 45 percent of the roadways in mediocre to fair condition.

“Providing adequate infrastructure is a basic function of government,” Hill said, “and this positive step towards improving our roads and bridges will benefit all Iowans.

“The funds generated by a pay-as-you-go system are constitutionally protected and is the most equitable funding source for our roads since it is a true user fee, with out-of-state drivers contributing.

“The added funding will help reverse a trend that has seen 30 counties bond for over $208 million to pay for critical needs of Iowa’s infrastructure.

“Our members have told us that improving Iowa’s deteriorating roads and bridges should be a major legislative priority for Iowa Farm Bureau.

“We are thankful that the bipartisan Legislature and Gov. Branstad have acknowledged this serious concern and acted to improve our current road and bridge infrastructure.”

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