Pothole problems offer new argument in support of gas tax hike

Pothole problems offer new argument in support of gas tax hike

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - All year, lawmakers have wondered whether the growing pothole problem justifies a gas tax hike.

Congressman Steve Cohen and both the Shelby County and Memphis mayor's offices think the gas tax increase is necessary.

"Definitely trying to stretch our dollars the best we can," said Shelby County Roads, Bridges and Engineering Department Administrator Darren Sanders.

The $2 million in annual road paving funds come from the Tennessee State Gas Tax. Shelby County is only allocated enough money to fix 20 miles of roads.

"We have 800 miles of roadway in our inventory, and we have to prioritize based on our heavier volume roads," Sanders added. "Then, we step down from there."

In a recent report, the Tennessee comptroller says the state gas tax isn't enough to maintain existing roads. In order to match inflation, the state would need to raise the gas tax from 21.4 cents to 38 cents per gallon. That amounts to a 78 percent gas tax hike on top of the extra 18.4 cents per gallon for the federal gas tax.

The tax increase would bring in an additional $148 million dollars for TDOT maintenance, repair, and construction of roads and bridges.

Some taxpayers have been waiting 40 years to get their roads repaved. In unincorporated Shelby County, residents have a tough time getting crews to fix problems on their less-traveled roadways.

Now, these taxpayers may have to wait longer after a particularly icy winter.

"The higher volume roads, they're going to be paved more often, which actually could push back some roads that are lower-volume," Sanders explained.

No bills are currently on the docket to increase the gas tax, and a tax hike may not happen until next year. Still, lawmakers think it's an option worth debating.

Some citizens are upset about the possible tax hike, but recognize the necessity for more funds.

"If there's another option, I think they should definitely seek that out," said driver Melissa Peterman. "If that's the only option, I guess we really don't have much of a choice, do we?"

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