The Scott County Board is reviewing a proposal to add a half-cent the sales tax to fund transportation projects. Ten projects have been recommended to increase safety, improve commute time, and promote economic development throughout Scott County. Funds would also be used to help support the county dial-a-ride service. A public hearing was held on the proposal last year. Additional comment was accepted at the April 7 County Board Meeting. The Board will vote tomorrow. It should defeat the proposed tax.
Selected improvements are needed, but on a scale that matches the problem, not the building program envisioned in the County’s plan, especially when higher taxes are required to pay for them. Keep in mind that all the miles of roadway that are built have to be maintained over decades to come, and these costs are going to increase over time. If there is to be new construction and expansion then the developers who will profit from new development need to absorb the capital costs and the costs of ongoing maintenance, possibly through increased impact fees. There are no free lunches. You want it. You pay for it.
Highway engineers will talk about congestion and travel times and their favorite issue, safety. Mostly these are flawed arguments. Should we spend millions of dollars to deal with congestion problems that last, maybe, an hour each day, when, a short time after the expenditure, the congestion returns, only worse? You can’t build your way out of congestion. More roads mean more cars and all the quality of life and environmental issues that come with them. Are a few extra minutes of travel time worth millions? As for safety, all too often it’s used as an excuse to spend money, lots of it, on big projects, when other cheaper solutions are possible. Everything needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Transit Services in the Metro area should recover a much higher percentage of their operating costs through passenger fares. The goal at one time was 50 percent. Now, under Met Council management and leadership, it’s barely 30 percent. There’s been a lot of coverage given to the Scott County dial-a-ride. We’ve heard a lot about contracting—mainly opposition from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME) The fact is that dial-a-ride services are the most expensive to provide because of their low productivity. Contractors operate virtually all of them in the Metro area and around the U. S. Scott County needs to do the same.
According to the Scott County web site, the meetings are held the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month at 9:00 a.m. at the following location:
County Board Room
Scott County Government Center
200 Fourth Avenue West,