Think of everything that makes your everyday life possible. Obviously your health, home, and job likely rank high on your list. But what about the simple services that make it all easier? Water from your taps, light from your lamps, and an internet and phone to communicate. We commonly group all of these things together as utilities. However, have you ever thought about the roads and bridges you use everyday as utilities as well? Merriam-Webster defines utility as “something useful or designed for use.” What’s more useful—or more used—than our roads and bridges in Louisiana?
Roads And Bridges Are Utilities We All Use
HNTB is a 106-year-old American infrastructure design firm. They recently posted a press release on the essential need to maintain America’s roads and bridges. They state, “Americans pay an average of less than $25 a month to maintain the roadways and bridges essential to mobility and the nation’s vitality. Compared with costs paid for other essential utilities and common conveniences, transportation is shockingly low.”
In recent years, the average costs of common utilities included:
- Average U.S. electric bills ran $1,340, per the U.S. Energy Administration.
- A four-person family paid an average annual water bill of $844.68, according to Statista.
- Forbes reported that annual broadband internet service totaled $794.04.
- According to Doxo, Americans’ mobile phone bills average $1,200 per year.
All of us would likely agree these services are essential to modern American life. Most people couldn’t function without their phone or internet. And your home wouldn’t be livable without electricity or water. Our roads and bridges are just as essential, and arguably their deterioration impacts us—and risks our lives—more than any other utility. However, we are not giving it the respect it needs to operate optimally.
You Get What You Pay For
If you cheap out on your internet service, your WiFi isn’t going to work great. Paying only half your energy bill won’t keep the lights on. It’s the same with our roads and bridges. Currently, Louisiana pays some of the smallest state gas taxes in the nation. That might have saved us a few pennies at the pumps, but it’s costing us WAY more. Unseen expenses add up, such as vehicle operating costs, wasted gas idling in traffic, and not to mention the cost of all that lost time. And that’s just the impact on individuals. drivers. On a state level, bad roads are costing us business, tourists, and our way of life. Of course, the greatest cost is that of our safety and lives themselves.
John Barton is a Department of Transportation (DOT) market sector leader at HNTB. His decades in the transportation industry make him an expert in infrastructure and its policies. He summed up the importance of our roads and bridges. “Mobility is vital to daily life—getting to work, school, recreation, healthcare, the grocery store, grandma’s house, the airport, moving the products and services we all consume each day—and it deserves investment levels that recognize that.”
We MUST Take Action!
Louisiana already has a $26 billion road and bridge maintenance and capacity backlog. If we don’t start working towards a solution, it’s only going to get worse and cost us even more. A small increase on our state gas taxes can go a long way. Take action by telling your legislators to call a special session to address this crisis. Our roads and bridges deserve our attention and dollars.