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Opinion-editorial
Pay at the pump or pay out your nose   your choice

By Mark H. Reddig, “Land Line Now” Host

We’ve heard from several truckers lately with some creative suggestions for building and maintaining roads. It’s a hot issue, especially with the Highway Trust Fund nearing zero and another highway bill on the horizon.

One trucker said that to solve crumbling or inadequate infrastructure, we should turn to someone who could really declare war on the problem. You know, like the military.

That’s right. The idea would be to have our troops build roads – especially troops who are trained, or are being trained, to do things like build runways in war zones or pave the way for other troops moving against an enemy.

The idea is not unprecedented. In fact, the idea goes all the back to Roman times. Who do you think engineered and built all their roads – you know, the ones that are still there and carrying traffic 2,000 years later?

Nonetheless, I think I’ll label that idea interesting, but a bit extreme. Plus, honestly, it could not solve the whole problem – since our National Highway System is so large that our military could not possibly get to it all.

But it shows that some folks understand that this is a crisis, that we are in deep, and that we need a solution. Our highways and bridges are falling apart. And the fund that would pay to fix the problem is plumb empty.

So what do we do, aside from a military invasion of Interstate 80?

I for one do not think we will find a single silver bullet solution to what’s happening with roads. But I do know what won’t work. We can’t toll all our roads. If you want to shut down the economy, give that one a whirl. It’s an inefficient way to collect highway money that would make it cost-prohibitive to engage in interstate commerce of any kind. That is what we call a bad idea.

We should not do a vehicle miles traveled tax. OOIDA has a host of reasons to oppose that – not the least of which is that most proposals for it include tracking vehicles with GPS technology so governments can tell what jurisdictions they ran in, and charge them accordingly. I don’t know about you, but Big Brother can kiss my patootie if he wants to track my every move. Where I go is my business, not theirs. So that is what we call another bad idea.

I could go on. But here’s the thing all of the big brains, think tanks and creative thinkers miss.

The fuel tax works today, in 2014, just as it did years ago.

You know what doesn’t work in 2014? The 1993 fuel tax. And that’s the one we have.

No one wants their taxes to go up. And I mean no one. But we are going to be faced with choices, and doing nothing isn’t on the list.

The money will come out of your wallet. So which is better? A 50-cent-a-mile toll, or 10 cents a gallon more? Heck, 50 cents a gallon more would be less than 50 cents a mile – and no, I am NOT making a suggestion there, just drawing a comparison.

I am interested in some of the ideas out there to make others who benefit from road transportation pay part of the bill – like a proposal in Congress to charge shippers to help refill the Highway Trust Fund.

However, the fuel tax is still the fairest, most efficient, most cost-effective way to pay for our roads and bridges.

In a world where so many choices are the lesser of two evils, this one is a pretty easy pick. LL