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Published Mar/Apr 2007

Poll finds how motorists feel on current issues

ore than 600 AAA members responded to a poll about traffic safety issues and transportation concerns in the January/February issue of the AAA Southern Traveler. Both state and federal legislators are being advised by AAA of the opinions expressed by AAA members in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi who responded to the poll.

HIGHWAY FUNDING

While no one likes tax increases or new taxes, additional funds to improve and maintain highways will be given consideration at both the state and federal levels. So we asked members to rank the least objectionable of five tax increases or tolls to boost funds for their state highway system. The order of least objectionable were:

1. Increase vehicle registration fee
2. Place tolls on new or expanded sections of roadways
3. Increase motor fuel per gallon tax
4. Impose a vehicle mile tax based on the number of miles driven
5. Place tolls on existing “free” roads

Several states have already allowed for the leasing of public roads to private companies for significant sums, and permitted these private companies to increase tolls on the road to recoup their investment and maintenance cost and make a profit. Other states and the federal government are promoting these types of public/private partnerships. But what does the public think?

To gauge motorists attitudes toward these types of proposals, they were asked: Do you favor or oppose allowing states to generate revenue by leasing public roads and allowing tolls? An overwhelming 86 percent say NO! If the road was already a toll road, the opposition continued but with less intensity as 73 percent say No!

INTERSTATE HIGHWAY ENHANCEMENTS

The nation’s Interstate Highway System celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and there are growing concerns of how to have the system continue to effectively serve as the country’s primary highway network. Looking at four possible enhancements to the Interstate Highway System, we asked its users to choose two of the four they would most like to see. They responded:

Build truck-only lanes 32%
Construct bypasses around major metropolitan areas 30
Expand capacity on congested sections 28
Add new routes to the Interstate Highway System 10

OPERATING COSTS

Recently the price of gasoline averaged more than $2.50 and we may again see even higher prices. How much would the cost of gasoline have to get to before motorists seriously consider making major changes, like carpooling, using mass transit, walking/cycling, purchasing a more fuel-efficient vehicle, moving closer to work or reducing leisure trips? They replied:

Have already made changes due to high gas prices 53%
$3 12
$3.50 9
$4 9
More than $4 9
Would not make changes 9

High gasoline prices have already motivated a majority to change their driving habits, the following changes would be considered as the price of gas increases:

Fewer and shorter leisure trips 38%
Buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle 32
Reducing driving by walking/cycling 11
Carpooling 9
Taking mass transit 7
Moving closer to job 3

Compared to last year, 48 percent will be taking fewer leisure trips; 45 percent will be taking the same number and 7 percent will be increasing their leisure trips this year.

HIGHWAY PROBLEMS/PRIORITIES

Compared to three years ago, motorists rate the condition of state highways in their area as:

Improved 31%
Stayed to same 28
Declined 41

AAA members responding from Arkansas, no doubt owing to the recent competition of the state’s Interstate Rehabilitation program, ran counter to the overall rating as 49 percent rated their roads improved and only 21 percent indicated that their road conditions had declined.

Louisiana residents were the most critical as the majority (61 percent) rated their roads as having declined. Highway damage associated with hurricanes Katrina and Rita surely affected the state’s rating. In Mississippi, about equal numbers rated roads improved (30 percent) as those that offered a “declined” rating (32 percent).

When asked to rate the most important highway improvement among several choices, they rated as their top priority the following:

Four laning of existing two-lane roads 40%
Eliminating commuter bottlenecks 31
Resurfacing existing four-laned roads 16
Adding more road safety features (guardrails, etc.) 10
Widening secondary roads bridges 4

Of the five safety concerns from which motorists selected, their No. 1 concern was “distracted drivers.” Their concerns include:

Distracted drivers 35%
Large trucks 23
Aggressive drivers 22
Drunk drivers 15
Road conditions 6


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