As your Allen County engineer, my job is to administer all aspects of design, construction, repair and maintenance of our local roads and bridges here in Allen County, which includes 352 miles of roads and 377 bridges. I have a staff to help with these responsibilities and our main goal is to provide the safest and most efficient roadway system possible. Unfortunately, our infrastructure consists of aging intersections, deteriorating bridges, crumbling roadways and a plethora of potholes. The difficulty of maintaining and upgrading our roads and bridges comes from inadequate funding that has decreased further over the years.
The vast majority of revenue for roads and bridges comes from license plate fees and from gasoline and diesel fuel taxes, which are flat dollar amounts (per gallon or license). These are collected by the state and do not increase without legislative action. Unfortunately, neither has been increased for decades to keep up with inflation.
• Allen County’s $5 permissive license fee hasn’t increased since 1968 (50 years).
• Ohio license plates haven’t increased since 1988 (30 years).
• Federal Gas Tax hasn’t increased since 1993 (25 years).
• Ohio Gas Tax hasn’t increased since 2005 (13 years).
Over the last 10 years, revenue to replace, repair and maintain roads and bridges has declined dramatically due to reduced fuel sales and reductions in vehicle registrations. At the same time, equipment costs have doubled and construction costs have nearly tripled (paving cost $25,000 per mile in 2003 vs $70,000 today). As a direct result, every year the county replaces fewer bridges and paves fewer miles of roads.
Based on projected life-cycles, we should be replacing 8 bridges and paving 24 miles of roads every year to maintain a safe infrastructure system. Instead, we’re averaging 3 bridges and only 4 miles of paving annually. Thankfully, Allen County’s commissioners realize that inadequate funding for our aging infrastructure is a serious problem and are committed to increase funding for roads and bridges if the County Capital Plan passes.
So, I applaud the commissioners for putting the county’s priorities in order by addressing these issues without “kicking the can down the road.” They’ve done their due diligence and developed a great Capital Plan that addresses the county’s needs without incurring future debt. The plan accomplishes this by increasing our current 6.75 percent sales tax by 0.2 percent (adds 2 cents to a $10 purchase). This increase can only be collected for a maximum of 10 years and then terminates automatically. Furthermore, the revenue collected can only be spent on permanent capital improvements (infrastructure).
So, whether it’s roads and bridges or buildings, the needs are real and evdent, but these issues can’t be addressed without passing the County Capital Plan issue on your ballot. Therefore, please join me and vote yes on May 8th, and help invest in Allen County’s future, because the longer we wait, the more expensive the repairs become.
Brion Rhodes is the Allen County engineer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org