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Motoring Issues

AAA poll takes pulse of readers on a variety of transportation topics.

More than 1,000 AAA members responded to a poll in the January/February issue of the AAA Southern Traveler about traffic safety issues and transportation concerns. Both state and federal legislators are being advised by AAA of the opinions expressed by its members in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi who responded to the poll.

The possibility of trucks increasing in weight and length generated the most passionate responses in this year’s poll. Indeed, a resounding 93 percent of respondents voiced their opposition to proposals that have been discussed in Congress that would allow the weight of trucks using the Interstate Highway System to increase to 97,000 pounds from 80,000 pounds. And nearly as many respondents (92 percent) said that Congress should not lift the ban on expanding the use of longer combination vehicles on interstate highways.

Studies have shown that not enough is being spent on our highway system to properly maintain it and provide for needed improvements to enhance safety and reduce congestion. When we asked if additional revenue is needed for highway maintenance and improvements, 70 percent of the respondents replied “yes,” which was nearly identical to earlier polls asking this question.

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 four ways to raise additional funds.

The order of least objectionable was:
1. Increase the motor fuel tax
2. Increase the general sales tax rate
3. Place tolls on roads that I drive
4. Impose a fee on miles driven

It’s no wonder that respondents rated imposing fees based on vehicle miles driven as the last way to generate additional funds. When asked specifically about whether charging drivers a fee based on miles driven is a fair way to fund transportation programs, the overwhelming majority said the program would be too complicated to implement and that it is a government intrusion on individual privacy.

Just as members ranked tolls low as a way to generate revenue for highway maintenance and improvements, they responded unfavorably to all questions involving toll roads. Several states already allow for the leasing of public roads to private companies for significant sums. These private companies are allowed to impose or increase tolls on the road to recoup their investment, to fund road maintenance costs, and eventually to make a profit.

While the federal government endorses these public/private partnerships in certain circumstances, respondents to the poll overwhelmingly oppose them. In fact, 82 percent oppose allowing states to generate revenue by leasing public roads and allowing tolls. If the road was already a toll road, the opposition continued but with less intensity as 71 percent said those roads should not be leased to a private company. Overall, 80 percent of respondents oppose allowing states to put tolls on existing toll-free roads.

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

Improved 33%
Stayed the same 35
Declined 32

AAA members in Mississippi were more encouraged about the condition of their roads than the overall ratings, with 46 percent of Mississippians rating their roads as improved. In Arkansas, 30 percent rated the roads as improved, and 29 percent of readers from Louisiana ranked their roads as improved. Of the three choices, “stayed the same” garnered the most responses in Arkansas (36 percent) and Louisiana (37 percent).
When asked to rate the most important highway improvement from among several choices, they rated as their highest priority the following:

Four laning of existing two-lane roads 27%
Resurfacing existing four-lane roads 26
Eliminating commuter bottlenecks 24
Adding more road safety features (guardrails,
median barriers, etc.) 18
Widening secondary road bridges 5

Of the five safety concerns from which motorists selected, their No. 1 concern by far was “distracted drivers.” Their concerns in order of anxiety include:

Distracted drivers 56%
Large trucks 14
Aggressive drivers 12
Drunk drivers 10
Road conditions 8

Mar/Apr 2012 Issue

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