SPECIAL REPORT: Tracking the Tax - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SPECIAL REPORT: Tracking the Tax

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One dime.

Every time.

Every gallon.

You've been paying an extra 10 cents to fill up for 2 years now.

The gas tax increase is designed to drive home $213 million this year alone to fix Iowa's roads and bridges.

Danielle Chihak isn't sure she's buying it. "If you hit this going 55 miles per hour, there's no telling what could happen," said Chihak as she pointed down to the edge of a Winneshiek County road that's wearing away.

Danielle and her husband are on the road a lot for their job.

There are days in which they travel up to 1,000 miles, starting from their home near Cresco.

"You can only put a band-aid on something for so long before it's not fixable," said Chihak.

She gave KWWL a ride on a road she uses a lot... one she calls, "unsafe."

Bluffton Road winds along the bluffs north of Decorah. It's a beautiful view, if you're not looking down.

"The road is chunking away. You can see where the white line used to be and they moved it in because the road is no longer here," said Chihak.

Bluffton Road has 2 different fog lines, or edge lines. The new line is painted inside the old one.

That's something KWWL asked Winneshiek County Engineer Lee Bjerke about.

"That's probably with the truck drifting. It's not something we try to change. Sometimes, those lines don't fall on top of the old ones. It's more of the painter than anything else when it happens," said Bjerke.

Chihak is worried that only narrows the road.

KWWL asked Bjerke if Bluffton Road is safe.

"Every road has its challenges when you get on it. To say it's safe or not depends on how you drive," said Bjerke.

He also says he knows the road needs work.

"We haven't been able to do a lot of the routine maintenance for the past 10 years and the roads are showing it. Bluffton Road is a prime example," said Bjerke.

He says that's why the gas tax increase is so critical.

"It's made a great impact," said Bjerke who also told KWWL it takes time.

A Bluffton Road project is in the works, but not until 2021.

He says they have to look at the big picture.

"Where can we spend our money and get the biggest bang for our buck out of it? Sometimes, that's not the worst road," said Bjerke.

Pole Line Road, right off Bluffton Road, is a prime example.

"It was ready to go. We just didn't have the funding for it," said Bjerke.

The gas tax increase accelerated the project.

It's resurfaced now... and if you wonder who paid for it, you don't have to look far to see the receipt.

There's a bright, orange sign along the road that says "this road made possible by the $0.10 fuel tax increase."

KWWL asked Bjerke about the cost of the sign.

"It was a minor expenditure really," said Bjerke.

He says it cost about $2,000 for 2 large markers on the same road.

"We want the public to know we are spending their money where we said we would spend it," said Bjerke.

Call it a sign of transparency to show where taxpayer money is being spent... on a sign paid for by taxpayers.

That doesn't mean transparency stops on that dime, however.

The law requires the DOT to track which projects are paid for with the extra money from gas taxes.

The state also provides projections for the extra revenue cities and counties should receive.

Cedar Rapids should get around $2.2 million this year for work on Highway 100 and downtown street lights, among other projects.

That number is $1.2 million in Waterloo, $1 million in Dubuque and $680,000 in Cedar Falls, some of that to help pay for the University Avenue project.

In Winneshiek County, $900,000 could be added to the books because of the $0.10 gas tax increase.

That's where Bluffton Road waits for a fix, one that won't come for another 4 years.

The county engineer is asking for more patience from Danielle Chihak and others on something that is clearly a personal issue.

"Everybody knows what road is the most important road and it's the one you drive. We're not building bypasses we don't need or bridges to nowhere," said Bjerke.

Read the DOT plan below: 

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