Digging Deeper: Tracking the tax - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Digging Deeper: Tracking the tax

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More Iowa roads and bridges are being repaired and rebuilt every year thanks to the gas tax.

We first reported the story about Senate File 257 three years ago when the legislature approved a change to the tax, and it's paving the way for new projects.

Every year, the gas tax is forecast to generate nearly $220 million, and that money pays for much-needed repairs to Iowa's roads and bridges.

What Senate File 257 essentially means, every time you pay at the pump, you're also paying for fewer bumps in the road.

Every time you pump, you're paying ten cents a gallon for better roads.

Iowa Department of Transportation Services Coordinator, Pete Hjelmstad, says, "what this money is ear-marked for is the critical roads and bridge projects throughout the state, and when we define them by critical, they're the ones that we want to sustain and grow Iowa's economy."

Not only are Iowa drivers paying ten cents a gallon every time we gas up, but people passing through and hauling goods through the state are also paying into the tax every time they stop and get fuel.

So, it takes some of the burden off Iowans and puts it on everyone using Iowa roads.

"The people using the roads are the ones who pay the taxes. So, it's the best example of a user fee that you can really have," Hjelmstad said.

While it's good news for many, several business owners argue more road construction is costing them.

"We're expecting the worst. We definitely went through a lot with that first construction, and we're not looking forward to the next," Jordan's Nursery employee, Kim Jordan said.

Kim Jordan works at Jordan's Nursery in Cedar Falls, and she says the next year's Highway 57 Project between Hudson and Franklin will cut into their busy season.

"We don't see as much traffic coming in from the west part of Cedar Falls, and a lot of the customers will take and use the interstate and then come back through," Jordan said.

While business owners are feeling the sting from more construction, the DOT is reminding them these projects are part of the growing pains that come with maintaining Iowa roads.

"People appreciate the work that's being done. Don't get me wrong, when the work is being done sometimes it can be a little inconvenient with detours and road closures or lane closures, but the finished project is always worth it," Hjelmstad said.

More than $5.5 million from the gas tax help pave the way for the Highway 57 project from Hudson Road to Franklin Street in Cedar Falls.

That means the DOT will be working to fill potholes, repave surfaces, and adding a fifth lane.

"A lot of times you see left-turning traffic on a four-lane road, and they're sitting on that inside lane waiting to make the turn. Somebody coming from behind doesn't see that, and you get a lot of rear-end collisions," Hjelmstad said.

Hjelmstad said the Highway 57 project in Cedar Falls is just one example of the gas tax improving Iowa's infrastructure.

Hjelmstad said even if the gas tax wasn't changed back in 2015, the projects would still need to be done.

In fact, that year, Iowa was given an overall C- grade in the Iowa Infrastructure report card for the condition of its roads, bridges, rails, and waterways.

"A lot of the infrastructure was built at the same time. When it's all built at the same time, it's going to come up for repairs or replacement at the same time, and that's really what we were seeing, and we were really falling behind," Hjelmstad said.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, while many roads are being updated and repaved, a big portion of the gas tax money paving the way for these projects is going to improve Iowa's many structurally-deficient bridges.

If you'd like to track the tax for yourself, you can click here.

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