Webster County officials will be heading to Des Moines today to meet with state legislators about continuing to improve Iowa's roads.
Bob Singer, Webster County Board of Supervisors chairman and vice president of the U.S. 20 Corridor Association, along with Webster County Engineer Randy Will, will speak with representatives and senators on the importance of highway maintenance and construction funding and encourage them to approve an increase in the road use tax to assist with that funding.
The tax would help keep funds generating for the completion of U.S. Highway 20 to four lanes between Early and Correctionville, and assist with repair and replacement of older roads and bridges throughout the state.
"We will make rounds to various area senators and representatives to discuss how we are going to fund in the future our long-term needs for repairing bridges and roads plus build new roads," said Singer. It is imperative to generate new funds to continue the maintenance as it is to build new roads and complete Highway 20. It all goes together."
Singer said the Department of Transportation has a budget of about $590 million to spend on new construction and road maintenance.
He said it is important to get additional funding to help complete a 33-mile stretch of Highway 20, which may come with a pricetag of more than $305 million.
"The Highway 20 association has proposed a theme this year of a dime a gallon," said Singer. "They will distribute new dimes as a reminder to the legislature that we feel a dime a gallon user fee is warranted.
Singer said the last time the Road Use Tax fund saw an increase was more than 25 years ago.
"The last time that gas tax was increased was in 1988," he said. "That was at roughly 20 cents per gallon. The DOT has been charged in part to funds dating back to 1988."
Singer said a 10 cent increase is not much to ask of the legislature.
"That 10 cents is not a big number when you are talking about the difference in some communities of over 10 cents between gas stations. Sometimes there is a difference of that much or more between Des Moines and Fort Dodge. So we don't feel that 10 cents is that big of a problem.
"For those that say no new tax, we respect that, but we ask them what answer do they have," said Singer. "We have to realize that the condition of Iowa's bridges is third from bottom in the United States in terms of repair. That is a serious problem. Unfortunately there would have to be a serious accident involving our bridges before the spotlight is put on those problems."
Several weeks ago, Singer addressed the Senate Transportation Committee on the issue.
"I assured them that we do not see any ready made solution to this long-term problem except to generate more road funds to make repairs and compete four-lane Highway 20 across the state," he said.
Singer said if passed, the 10 cent increase could be implemented over a five year period.
"It could bet wo cents per year for five years or two and a half cents over four years," he said.
Singer said it is important that the Road Use Tax fee is approved this year, or it could be several years before it would even be discussed again.
"If we don't see an adjustment this year in the user fee for the Road Use Tax fund the it would probably be several years again before we do because next year is an election year. This is the time to get it done."