A bumpy road ranking report

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Good afternoon,

Commentaries from the Caesar Rodney Institute are not especially popular among legislators of the majority party.

One of the latest memos from the free-market-oriented think tank might not be embraced by members of either the ruling Democrats or minority Republicans.

Economist John Stapleford, citing a report from the Reason Foundationnoted that the state’s highway system finished 42nd, based on 13 measurements. The libertarian foundation has been issuing highway reports for the past 24 years.

A well-publicized boost in state transportation spending ($3.9 billion between now until 2025) has given Delaware room to pay for badly needed projects. The feds have also stepped up in giving the state flexibility in bond financing for the controversialRoute 301 toll road.

On the plus side, Delaware’s bridges are in far better shape than in many states. But the cost per mile of maintaining roads is high, a sign that the state is in catch up mode.

Stapleford says that one factor that may have helped get us to this place is the state’s gas tax, which ranks 36thamong the 50 states. The gas tax has also been affected by downward pressures that include higher fuel efficiency and in coming years electric vehicles.

Legislators from both parties have taken a great deal of pride in the state not increasing its gasoline tax in two decades. Maryland, by contrast, raised the fuel tax, but lowered tolls for residents, a move that made Larry Hogan a popular governor in a heavily Democratic state with plenty of substandard roads.

In Delaware, increases in tolls and vehicle fees have plugged the funding gap. Still, the low ranking suggeststhat the state is playing catch-up and might have trouble making up ground. That bolsters the case for a (gasp) fuel tax hike

The reaction from motorists and legislators would bepredictable. The price of gas is at top of mind, unlike property taxes that are often folded into mortgage payments or income taxes that are largely covered by withholding from paychecks.

Here’s hoping for fewer potholes next spring and a higher ranking in next year’s report. It is possible that current spending wave will eventually improve the state’s ranking.

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