Every year, local communities spend millions to repave, patch and seal roads throughout the county, but hundreds more miles of road aren’t touched.
The key reason: funding.
Local governments have been receiving a similar amount of funding for roadwork from the state for years, after a slight increase in 2013.
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But now, lawmakers are looking at several options that would increase funding for roadwork both on state highways and interstates and on local roads and streets.
On the list of options: added registration fees on vehicles, increasing the fuel tax and adding tolls to certain interstates.
Local officials have some ideas on what they would like to see done, but what they really want is a stable, long-term increase in funding.
“Regardless of what comes out of the legislature this year, the key is to see dependable, long-term revenue that (local governments) can plan around,” Johnson County Highway Department Director Luke Mastin said.
For Johnson County, which handles about 600 miles of roads in the unincorporated areas, the more than $4 million each year the county gets from the state sounds like a lot, but it runs out quickly, Mastin said.
“The biggest problem is there is just so much to be done,” he said. “We can’t get to all that needs to be done in a given year.”
Mastin would like to see an increase in the gas tax, since a portion of the money local governments get from the state each year for road funding comes from that revenue source, he said. Currently, lawmakers are discussing an increase of up to 10 cents per gallon, with continuing smaller hikes in future years.
Just paving a one-mile section of road can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000, depending on what needs to be done, he said. When the county can’t get to a project that is needed because there isn’t enough funding, that creates a backlog of work needed later, and it becomes more costly, he said.
That is a key reason why the county — and lots of other local governments — try to invest more resources into maintaining roads so they last longer before they have to be repaved, he said. That includes crack sealing so that roads are protected from water seeping into them and causing more damage.
In the past, when asphalt was cheap, people became conditioned that the only good road was one that had been recently paved. But that isn’t the case, and preventative maintenance is more important than paving, Mastin said. The goal is for a recently paved road to last 10 to 15 years, so that the county can have more time to fix other roads in need of repairs before that same road would need to be paved again.
In Franklin, that preservation work is important, because the city simply can’t get to every road that needs work and has to make sure that roads last as long as possible, city engineer Mark Richards said.
The city gets a little more than $1 million per year in funding from the state, but needs to spend at least $4 million to get the local streets up to the condition city officials want, Richards said.
A funding increase — however lawmakers make that happen — is needed. He would like to see multiple options lawmakers are considering be approved.
“I think we’re hoping for all of it,” he said.
What local communities need is a sustainable source of revenue, instead of the recent one-time increases the state has provided, he said.
The state has gotten behind in the years the fuel tax has not been increased, so a continued increase to keep up with inflation is important, he said.
“If we don’t, then every year we get further and further behind the curve,” Richards said.
Here is a look at how much local communities received in road funding in 2016 from the state. The funding comes from money collected in the fuel tax and other sources:
Johnson County;$4.49 million
SOURCE: Indiana Gateway website