Kentucky needs stronger funding for roads

Published 3:11 pm Monday, December 10, 2018


The Advocate-Messenger

You won’t find elected officials publicly supporting the idea of higher taxes very often. But in the case of Kentucky’s gas tax, the Boyle County Fiscal Court is doing just that. And we think that’s the right position to take.

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The amount of revenue available to maintain Kentucky’s roads has been depressingly low for a long time. All around the state, roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure gets repaired too slowly or not at all.

You might think you only feel the impacts of poor road funding in the shocks of your car when you drive over potholes, but bumpy roads are just the visible tip of the iceberg. Roads carry business and economic development around the state and from elsewhere in the country into the Bluegrass.

Boyle County specifically stands to gain or lose a lot from the quality of our roads. Danville is an urban core of a mostly rural economic area. Boyle County has the ability to attract people from many different counties as a result, giving us a bigger consumer market and workforce than our population would otherwise suggest.

But in order for people not in Boyle County to come to Boyle County to work and play, they have to travel on roads. Roads are essential as well in order for many businesses to consider Boyle County a viable location, especially in the logistics industry our economic development leaders are specifically targeting.

Boyle County is hoping the bourbon boom will be good for its economy, as well. But bourbon needs good roads in both directions — to transport tourists in and bourbon out. And bourbon businesses like to be out in the country, in the more rural areas of the county. With so many rural roads in addition to its state-maintained highways, Boyle County is heavily dependent on rural secondary road funding to make sure its less urban areas have decent access, as well.

Boyle County’s future is dependent on the future of the gas tax perhaps more than most other counties in the commonwealth.

The arguments have already started against an increase in the gas tax from those who hear the word “tax” and shut off their brains. They claim a gas tax increase would “hurt” Kentucky drivers, but their arguments are all terribly short-sighted.

What will hurt Kentucky drivers — and Kentuckians of all kinds — more will be if we don’t adequately fund our infrastructure. Businesses will pack up and leave, or never come in the first place, because they found somewhere with smoother streets. Tourists will decide other areas make for more enjoyable travel. Recent economic growth for the state — and for communities on the cusp of great things like Boyle County — will sputter and stall out.

Whatever handful of cents each of us would save at the gas pump doesn’t seem worth it. By keeping the gas tax low, we force Kentucky’s road departments and its economy to run on fumes.