2018 is shaping up to be the year of infrastructure after the passage of tax reform in 2017. The Washington Examiner noted at the end of 2017 President Trump had met with senior administration and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., in regards to a roughly 70-page infrastructure proposal, which is likely to have been released at some point in January. Infrastructure is one of the few uniting topics that draws support from across both sides of the aisle. And with Flint as a near memory and potholes as a constant reminder, there are a lot of driving forces to ensure the U.S.’s infrastructure receives a much needed update.
Funding, of course, has remained a constant concern, but some states are getting creative to address this stumbling block from raising gas taxes to creating new pilot programs like those in Washington and Oregon that test a pay-by-the-mile road tax — thanks to federal grant money. Oregon had already rolled out its pilot program in 2015 while Washington is just getting started. Both are seeking to address the predicted decline in gas tax revenue, which is anticipated to decline 45 percent by 2035, as more efficient cars continue to enter the market.
For their studies, both states have been utilizing volunteers who are tracking their mileage with GPS devices or periodic odometer checks. Washington has also launched a cellphone app for participants to use. Undoubtedly, many states will be eyeing the results when Washington reports its findings by 2020.
Ultimately, something will need to be done; after all, our roadways received a D on the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. The recent holiday road trips have probably also reinforced that message with roadways from city to city, county to county and state to state showing the good, the bad and the ugly.
While there is a lot of the bad and ugly, the good is showing a lot of innovation, which we will be highlighting in this issue. This includes embracing roundabouts and converting downtown streets from one-way to two-way.
One of the cities that has dabbled in both roundabouts and the conversion of one-way to two-way is West Lafayette, Ind., which has been easing traffic with its State Street project. Experiencing these changes first hand this past Christmas, I can’t believe how much easier it is to navigate with the addition of a roundabout near Wabash Landing and the emergence of a two-way State Street. Writer Sophie Harris caught up with Erik Carlson to talk about West Lafayette’s project in addition to New Rochelle, N.Y., which has also been doing some of its own conversions in preparation for the needs of the future.
As for roundabouts, writer Catey Traylor will be sharing some of their pros, including delving into projects that have been undertaken in Michigan and Minnesota. Other topics include turning streets to a light gray, dark sky-friendly streetlights and a spotlight on the finished Harshman Road Bridge in Dayton, Ohio.
Have a safe February, especially if you’re busy snowfighting!