I was almost involved in a death by vehicular accident during my morning commute recently. And it's all because of the green movement.
How did I nearly perish? A biker almost ran me down as I walked on the bike/hiking path behind my house. He was traveling way too fast, was laden with too large of a backpack to be safely balanced, and was on the wrong side of the trail. Fortunately, I jumped back out his path and lived to see another day.
I blame our society's newfound care of the environment for my near-death experience. Everyone is trying to reduce their carbon footprint. I work from home more often and have been jogging on the bike path instead of driving to the gym. I'm certain that my assailant was a former hippy who gave up driving so he could have his own green commute.
The problem with all this greenness is that it takes proper planning. The growing congestion on what was my secluded path shows what happens when everyone tries to avoid driving. This rail-to-trail path just isn't designed properly for high traffic volume. And who is willing to pay for the needed update?
I know our county can't afford it. The increased number of telecommuters, coupled with others who have adopted for non-traditional methods, have created a funding problem for Kane County, Ill. The treasurer just reported a 3% drop in the state motor fuel tax revenues disbursed to the county so far this year. The revenue drop is directly linked to the amount of fuel purchased. He expects the tax revenue to continue to decline.
Gas tax revenue is dropping across the nation. Since November 2007, Americans have driven 40.5 billion fewer miles compared to the previous year, the U.S. Department of Transportation says. This trend will continue. We are buying more fuel-efficient cars, riding buses and trains, and consolidating the number of trips we take.
The revenue shortfall from reduced gas purchases is even more pronounced at the federal level. In August, the Bush administration forecasted a $3.1 billion shortfall in the federal Highway Trust Fund. If you recall, it was only a few years ago when experts projected tens of billions of dollars of excess money in this same account.
This tax revenue shortfall is a real problem for our industry for three reasons. First and foremost, most DOTs will struggle next year to find the money for large capital projects. Second, those projects that governments do approve will probably focus on repair, a category in which little concrete is used. And third, any new funding will go toward developing and increasing mass transit capacity and to increasing the number of alternative commuting routes such as sidewalks and bike paths.
During this election year, I repeat my previous requests to support candidates who understand the importance of well-funded, balanced transportation infrastructure decisions. Otherwise, you or your business might be blindsided by ecologically minded groups of people going at full speed on a poorly designed path, touting a carbon footprint reduction that means less money for roads.
EDITOR IN CHIEF