The Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is currently facing a $12 billion backlog on road repairs and the $1.7 billion revenue the department is expecting isn’t going to do much to elevate the problem.
This issue can be attributed to gas taxes and the amount of money
they generate for the state. Gas taxes are taxes paid when purchases are made on gasoline. The gas tax was established in Louisiana in 1984. Most of DOTD’s funding comes from what these gas taxes and federal funds generate. However, compared to states like North Carolina, Louisiana’s state gas taxes are one of the lowest in the South. Louisianans only pay 20 cents per gallon, while people in North Carolina pay 38.15 cents. This does not include the federal gasoline tax which is 18.4 in both states.
The DOTD gets 16 cents out of every 20 cents the gas tax generates. The four other cents are dedicated to projects in the Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development (TIMED) Program. The program was established in 1989 with a goal to invest in transportation projects to increase economic development. TIMED projects include the widening of US 90 from Morgan City to Houma, LA 15 and the Huey P. Long Bridge.
The gas tax has not increased since its inception. Inflation has made this an issue for the state and DOTD. According to a report done by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the tax is now only worth 7 cents per gallon because of inflation. This is causing funding issues for the DOTD. To make matters worse, the ASCE report explained that revenue from gas taxes continue to decline because of increase in fuel efficient vehicles. Paired with the $12 billion backlog, improvements don’t seem to be coming.
In fact, Louisiana’s roads and bridges received D ratings from the ASCE, which represents a crumbling infrastructure. The DOTD was
contacted for a comment on this rating but no response was received
“Louisiana road system is congested, in poor condition and inadequate
to meet the needs of a state competing to provide economic opportunities for business and citizens in the 21st century” the ASCE report stated.
Much like the ASCE report, traffic congestion is something that LSU student Paige Vaughn deemed an issue.
“Depending on what time you choose to drive, traffic in Baton Rouge can be horrible,” Vaughn said.
LSU student Justin Guillory shared the same opinion.
“Traffic in Baton Rouge area is very bad between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., especially off the I-10 Bridge,” Guillory said.
Both students are from out of town. Guillory is from Lake Charles and Vaughn is from Livonia.
The ASCE report further explained that almost every deficiency can be directly blamed on “an inadequate and outdated funding model that forces transportation professionals to defer capacity, safety and maintenance projects.”
Although, both Vaughn and Guillory stated that road conditions have never caused car problems, other out of town students have had different experiences.
Nicholas Willbanks is one of these students. He drives a 2014 Mustang GT and has recently considered buying a new car because of the road conditions in the Baton Rouge area. He stated that he constantly encounters potholes and has even gotten flat tires because of them.
“When I hit potholes it feels like it’s doing structural damage to my car,” Willbanks said. “I now realize why people have trucks in the city, thanks to driving on Baton Rouge roads.”
Willbanks’s family lives in Texas and Virginia. He drives to both states a few times a year to visit family.
“Compared to Virginia and Texas roads, Louisiana roads are terrible,” Willbanks said. “The interstates and major highways in Louisiana are slightly better than the local roads, but there’s always some sort of construction project going.”
Similar to Vaughn and Guillory, Willbanks believes that traffic in Baton Rouge is an issue. He considers traffic light timing “a joke” and explained how he constantly sees traffic even during non-peak hours.
Any type of change done to the gas tax would be handled by the legislature. Although, Louisiana’s failing infrastructure is clear and organizations like Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association have called for an increase in the tax, the legislature has not made much progress.
“I think it’s ridiculous that no one is trying to increase the tax,” Willbanks said. “I don’t understand why they can’t increase it if it’s going to help fix the backlog.”
Attempts at contacting the legislature for comment went unanswered.