By STEVE WOLPER
It’s simple economics; we can either ignore the fact that there aren’t enough funds to maintain our roads in a safe condition and agree to let them continue to deteriorate to the point that it will eventually cost us several times more to replace them or we can act now and approve the Road and Bridge Levy. If we do nothing, the roads will continue to deteriorate and increase the wear and tear on our vehicles while becoming less and less safe to drive, walk along or bicycle.
Few of us like to visit the dentist, pay to repaint our homes, or change the oil in our cars, but we all know it’s safer and in the end it costs less to do the maintenance before something breaks. Why is it so hard to understand that maintaining our roads is no different?
The evidence of the problem is there for anyone who cares to see: pothole roulette, patches on top of patches, crumbling road edges, upswept shoulders and intersections, faded to invisible pavement markings, etc.
I’ve heard endless flawed arguments against the levy ranging from:
1. There ought to be a better way to pay for roads; possibly true but the problem is with the Idaho Legislature’s refusal to raise gas taxes enough provide adequate local funding. Fuel-efficient vehicles use less gas and therefore generate less fuel tax but they still damage roads from increased use; so, available funds decrease while the cost to maintain the roads increases.
2. The School District shouldn’t have paid so much to replace the superintendent; maybe so, but that has less than nothing to do with maintaining local roads. The School District is completely separate from the county.
3. The county should use General Funds to raise the $3 million needed from their $13 million budget to maintain roads; from which existing county services or which county contributions to local public service nonprofit organizations should we take the $3 million: the Senior Connection, The Advocates for Survivors of Domestics Violence, the Housing Authority, 4-H, Mountain Rides; and there’s lots more organizations and services that will be impacted if we don’t pass the levy.
4. Commissioners’ salaries; does anyone really think that all their salaries together would make a dent in the cost to rebuild one mile of our roads?
5. We live in an incorporated city. We already pay to maintain our city streets; 50 percent of the funds will go to the cities and we all use county roads to drive over Trail Creek, out Warm Springs, fish at Silver Creek, drive out East Fork, bike on Broadford Road, go mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, etc.
There’s an old joke, the punch line of which is, “You can’t get there from here.” Well, we can’t get to well-maintained and safer roads without paying for them, either.
Steve Wolper lives in Blaine County.