Sunday, April 21, 2013

Like the City It Surrounds, The Washington Beltway Is Becoming Unhinged

A Symbol of Dysfunctional America – In More Ways Than One

When the Interstate Highway System was first started naturally Congress funded road building for themselves, and so one of the first major projects was the Washington Beltway.  That road completely circles the city, and it is absolutely critical to how the city and its booming, highly populated suburbs conducts transportation.  But like the government itself, the Beltway is falling apart.

The Washington Beltway - Imagine This With a Lane Shut Down for Many Months

The Capital Beltway, a politically iconic and locally vital highway, is dying beneath your turning wheels.

Under the surface of all but some recently restored segments, fissures are spreading, cracks are widening and the once-solid road bed that carries about a quarter-million cars a day is turning to mush.

The challenges are two fold.  One is how to fix a road when you cannot shut it down

In a perfect world, it would be torn up — the asphalt and concrete, and the bed of crushed stone below — right down to the bare earth. From that fresh start a new and stable highway would grow. But this is the Beltway, and closing down whole sections of it would tie one of the most congested regions in the nation into a Gordian knot.

And the second is where the money comes from to do the fix.

If bad roads cause sticker creep at the checkout aisle, the cost of fixing them is about to cause sticker shock at the gas pump.

Aware that they can’t rely on austerity-minded Congress to triple spending for roadways, states have begun to step in with tax increases.

Uh oh, Conservatives won’t like that.  But while Democrats and some Republican governors are facing up to the fact that tax increases will be needed,

With a push from Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia overhauled the way it pays for transportation programs. A $1.4 billion plan replaces a 17.5-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on motor fuels that will keep pace with economic growth and inflation.

It’s a complex stew of new taxes that tacks about 11.5 cents on to the current cost of a gallon of gas, according to industry estimates.

Drivers in Maryland will be paying pennies more per gallon by summer under a bill thatpassed the Maryland Senate on Friday and will now go to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has promised to sign the measure. Within three years, the new sales tax would rise until it reaches 13 to 20 cents per gallon, according to legislative analysts. It is expected to raise $4.4 billion for roads and transit over six years.

we can all count on Conservatives to engage in some budgetary flim flam to avoid raising taxes.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants to sell off dozens of power and heating plants that supply universities and prisons to win bond market support for a two-year $6.4 billion transportation plan.

Yes, the Wisconsin plan is just a scheme to borrow money, but it allows radical conservative Gov. Scott Walker to say he didn’t raise taxes.  He just mortgaged and sold the state’s assets, leaving the problem for the future.  Gosh, remember when Conservatives used to be against that sort of thing.

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