Louisiana can take its most significant steps toward improving transportation infrastructure in decades, but only if legislators listen to their constituents, according to the leader of the state's top transportation advocate.
Recent reports and surveys show that Louisiana roads and highways are in bad shape, and citizens are fed up to the point of supporting significant tax increases to improve the infrastructure, said Ken Perret, president of the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association.
A report last week from the national transportation group
showed each Baton Rouge driver pays $2,466 a year in extra vehicle maintenance, fuel and lost-time costs because of rough and congested roads that lack safety features. Around the same time,
an LSU survey was released
that shows a majority of Louisiana citizens are willing to pay up to 20 cents a gallon extra in gasoline taxes if the money were dedicated to transportation.
The 2017 Legislative session begins on Monday, and lawmakers are expected to debate increased funds for transportation, which is expected to include a gas tax hike of up to 20 cents per gallon. Louisiana has one of the lowest state gas tax rates in the country, about 55 percent lower than the national average, according to the
American Petroleum Institute
"The public understands you can't have a modern economy based on a transportation system that was built in the 1970s," Perret said. "Voters are past the tipping point, and they are demanding that legislators take action to modernize our infrastructure."
Perret said he's concerned that some legislators will balk at making necessary investments in transportation because they under the mistaken impression that voters will punish any politician who approves higher taxes. "That kind of thinking is older than our bridges and has more potholes than our roads," he said.
"The irony is that some lawmakers think voting for a tax is going to hurt them politically," Perret said. "The truth is that voters are sending a loud and clear message that if all you can do is kick the can down the road, you're not doing your job."