Everyone who wants to pay more taxes raise your hand.

Hmm. Not seeing any.

OK, everyone who wants to see our streets, highways and bridges regress to the 1920s raise you hand.

Same response.

And therein lies the problem.

We need more highway money or our daily driving lives will be even worse than they are right now.

Mo Darwish, former deputy director of our district of the Ohio Department of Transportation who is now planning director for a prestigious Akron engineering firm, the GPD Group, says we're in a heap of trouble unless we jack up the gas tax.

“Look at it from your own personal perspective,” he says. “If your house is falling apart — you need a roof, you need basement [work], you need plumbing — and you don't have money to do that, what's going to happen to your house?”

Nothing good.

“Your house is your largest investment,” Darwish says. “And the infrastructure is the largest investment for the state of Ohio.”

The condition of our collective house goes beyond convenience and aesthetics. An ODOT analysis showed that when road conditions deteriorate by 25 percent, the number of crashes doubles.

Everyone who wants to be involved in more crashes raise your hand.

Ohio's gas tax is currently 28 cents per gallon, which it has been for the last 14 years. Darwish says we need to jack it up at least 10 cents.

If we did that, we'd still be way below Pennsylvania's 58.7 cents and significantly below the other neighboring states similar to ours, Indiana (42.9 cents) and That State Up North (44.1).

The damage to your pocketbook would be relatively minimal.

The average vehicle now gets 24.7 mpg. The average number of miles driven per year by a licensed Ohio driver is 12,906. Which means the average Ohio driver uses 523 gallons of gas per year.

If my calculator isn't lying, a 10-cent increase in the gas tax would cost the average driver 52 bucks more per year. In other words, $1 a week.

For perspective, the owner of a $150,000 house in Summit County is paying $35 a year in property tax for the Akron Zoo —  even if he or she never sets foot in the place.

(Side note: This marks approximately the third time in the last 30 years that Your Favorite Columnist has agreed with the Beacon Journal Editorial Board, which seemingly never met a tax increase it didn't like.)

A panel formed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine quickly came to the conclusion that a boost in the gas tax is logical and necessary.

Darwish points out that not all of the gas-tax money goes to ODOT. Only half of every 28 cents is sent their way. The other 14 cents goes directly to townships, cities and counties — except for the money that must be used for servicing the debt that was run up by the previous governor, John Kasich, who borrowed heavily against turnpike revenues to kick the problem down the road.

At stake is not only the condition of our existing roads; ODOT has all kinds of plans on the drawing board, but that's where they stay because there's simply no money to build new stuff or rework old stuff.

Darwish also was previously employed by the Ohio Turnpike Commission, where he oversaw contracts, budgets and long-range plans. During Gov. Bob Taft's administration, he served as liaison between the turnpike, ODOT and the governor's office.

As if the situation in Ohio isn't bad enough already, Darwish says rumblings in Washington could open up a massive sinkhole in our state's road budget.

“Typically, right now, when we get money from Washington, it goes straight to AMATS,” he says, referring to the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, a regional planning organization.

“The formula is 80 percent federal and 20 percent local. The [national] talks about the infrastructure [have included a proposal to] switch it — 80 percent local and 20 percent national.”

Everyone who is eager to be involved in a financial head-on collision raise your hand.

 

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com. He also is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bob.dyer.31