The larger issue of a national plan has held center stage for weeks in Washington, where Senate and House conferees appear to be making bicameral, bipartisan progress on a multi-year funding of a new highways bill, as it’s traditionally called.
Other work for highways is moving faster at state levels, the magazine State Legislatures reports in its June issue. The journal, published by the National Conference of State Legislatures, provides news of state-level work nationwide.
The article “Paving the Way” in the June issue describes how states are moving past the long-delayed national funding reforms to act on pressing highway and bridge needs in-state:
• Pennsylvania is considering a broad partnership with the private sector to build bridges, a method used on a limited basis in Mississippi.
• Iowa, which calculates it gets $1.6 billion less than it needs each year to keep up with highway needs, is considering the first tax increase – 10 cents per gallon – on fuel in 23 years. It is also viewed as a jobs bill.
• Kansas, looking down the road to less oil dependence, is considering ways to “tax” people who charge their electric cars at public retail charging stations rather than letting them slip through the taxation net that all gasoline/diesel powered drivers encounter.
• Arizona is considering a per-mile tax for electric vehicles and possibly a “vehicles miles traveled” tax for the total travel of individuals.
• At least 10 states, the magazine reports, have developed special “high occupancy toll lanes” fees for solo drivers who want to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes, which sometimes move faster.
• Maine and other states are considering an economic-development approach to highways, with special bond issues for major highways related to economic development opportunities put to voter approval.
All the state efforts, of course, would be boosted if a longer-term national highways bill – jobs creator as well as a road builder – could be hashed out and then passed by both chambers before the June 30 deadline on the current extension.
The states, at this point, are outpacing the federal government in finding solutions.