Iowa drivers are presently paying 10 cents more per gallon than they did just a few years ago, and while tax increases are no friend to most political leaderships, in Iowa benefits are already being realized.
The state’s gas tax hike has produced an extra $515 million for state and local governments to put toward fixing Iowa’s roads and bridges. As a result, hundreds of road and bridge construction projects have been green-lit, in either new letting or accelerated schedules.
In 2015, a contentious debate to increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon roiled in the state legislature, but was ultimately adopted and signed into law by then-Gov. Terry Branstad. At that time, the state DOT said revenue for road and bridge construction and repair needs was falling short by $215 million per year, resulting in project delays and multiple ratings indicating the state’s bridges were in poor shape.
The 10-cent increase produced an additional $220 million in the state budget years that ended June 30 of 2016 and 2017, according to the state data. According to the Sioux City Journal, with the addition of a smaller portion of new revenue from the first few months after the increase was approved, a total of $515 million in extra revenue has been produced by the 10-cent increase since its implementation, of which $245 million has gone to the state road system, $167 million to county roads and $103 million to cities.
Nearly $100 million was used on 237 critical projects, at least one in every county, during the state budget year that ended June 30, according to state data.
Iowa in recent years has ranked at or near the top of national reports highlighting states with bridge repair needs. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, (ARTBA) recently published a study that said Iowa has the nation’s most structurally deficient bridges. The new gas tax revenue is expected to help local governments address that issue. More than 31% of bridges in the state are in line to be repaired or replaced.