This writer was observing through the news media over the weekend that gasoline consumption has been dropping as the price continues to rise, as more and more people are finding ways to conserve, carpool and consume less. I started to think that since the Washington State gas tax is tied to gallons sold, that the State’s coffers for roads projects must be dwindling, as well.
That was confirmed on June 9 with NBC’s Today Show interview with Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service who said that oil consumption is down 3-4% from last year.
Declining gas consumption leads to less road funds, when budgets for the year were pegged to higher sales before the price per gallon rise. Then we have rising construction costs that include rebar, concrete, petroleum based asphalts, and fuel for machinery. All of these factors are coming together at the same time to make road projects tenuous, at best.
“WSDOT has already begun to delay some of the lower profile projects in its overall plan, as is necessary to balance the Transportation budget for this biennium and beyond,” says my contact at the WSDOT.
So we have inflation along with lower tax receipts.
There will be some challenging decisions about which road projects will be funded and which will not, come the 2009 legislative session.
The Governor cut the Yelm Bypass in the 2008 budget, however powerful legislators Rep. Tom Campbell in the House and Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen in the Senate got most of the funds restored.
Will they be successful in that again?
That remains to be seen.
If we get a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico as predicted, higher gas prices are inevitable yet.
The latest WSDOT cost for the Yelm Bypass is now $95 million and rising, with $56 million unfunded, regardless of what the Mayor says. Is the $50,000 Yelm is spending on a lobbyist to convince lawmakers to fund the Bypass really necessary? I mean if Campbell & Rasmussen can get the Governor’s budget cut for this project restored, then they are the champions who will, in the end get funding or not. A $50,000 lobbyist will make no difference!
As the City of Yelm has reported, traffic through town has eased, thanks in part to more carpools and one real estate agent telling me Yelm commuters to Olympia and Tacoma are selling here and moving back there to reduce commuting expenses.