Condition of Iowa Roads, Bridges Costs Iowa Drivers Nearly $2 Billion

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By Ryan Jones

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Nearly $2 billion a year or about $1,300 per driver. That's how much money a national transportation research group called "TRIP" claims is costing Iowa.

Crashes, auto repairs, plus time and gas wasted are reasons, the group says. Forty-two percent of state and locally maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, 27 percent of Iowa's bridges need repair or replacing -- the third highest rate in the country.

Iowa's countless rural roads are especially deadly -- with a fatality rate two and a half times higher than on other roads. Both TRIP and Iowa transportation officials say fixing all that comes down to one thing...money.

"Jones County in particular, we have a very large and aging roads system," said Derek Snead.

Not only does he drive on them every day, as the county's engineer, he's also in charge of fixing them. Snead says he has less $5 million a year for paving roads. That amount hasn't kept pace with the rising cost of pavement and gravel.

"When you have revenue that is staying the same and the cost to improve all these roads and bridges that are going up, it doesn't add up very well," Snead said.

The TRIP report claims Iowa has a $215 million a year shortfall in road funding. That means every year, Snead has to decide what roads don't get fixed.

"We do have a lot of times that we have roads that become more difficult to travel -- we try to go there first," he said.

That's why TRIP is urging Iowa lawmakers to raise Iowa's gas tax - something that hasn't happened since 1989.

"Well the money is there if the legislature will quit dragging their feet an take action on increasing the funding," said David Scott of the Iowa Good Road Association. "The fact of the matter is we have done study after study showing the need."

Snead also thinks a ten cent per gallon tax increase would help. In the meantime, he says his crews are doing the best they can to keep Jones County roads safe.

"Our county employees they live out on them roads and they have families out on those roads," Snead said.

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