The transportation infrastructure and traffic congestion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is a real challenge to not just the leadership but also the general public that uses the roads on a daily basis. The roads are in a deplorable state, the bridges structurally deficient and obsolete and the resulting congestion eats up the productivity of the general population. The rate of fatalities on the roads is also a real menace for the town and the state in general (Louisiana Smart Growth Summit, 2016). The fatality rates are in fact above the average of the general national average of road fatalities in the United States. Experts on infrastructure also cite the fact that the cost of infrastructure is very high, but the cost of having the poor infrastructure in the region and the area, in general, are far more than the cost that they would incur in solving the menace. It is this that has led to many politicians and other economic experts appealing to the state governance and also the federal government to intervene and bring a solution to the problems facing Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Steinberg, et. al., 2011). The majority of these stakeholders are fast to decide that it is time that taxation on the people is increased to cover the expenses of maintaining and also upgrading the infrastructure in Baton Rouge (Louisiana Smart Growth Summit, 2016). However, this will have a direct impact on the cost of living and also of transportation in the area leading to further suffering of the people in the hands of the governments that failed to maintain and also upgrade the infrastructure before it got to the deplorable state it is in. Therefore, the federal and state governments should not increase taxation on the citizens on oil and infrastructural use in an effort to raise funds for repair maintenance and upgrade of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
It is counterproductive to try solving the transportation issues faced by the people of Louisiana through increasing taxation. It is because, an increase in taxation for fuels and also on transportation will have direct effects on the cost of transportation, the cost of production of goods and services and also ultimately affect the cost and quality of life among the citizens (Louisiana Smart Growth Summit, 2016).
Increasing taxation on fuel and other areas may be a double cost for the general populace. It is because, the people of Baton Rouge, Louisiana are already paying huge costs for having to use the deplorable infrastructure. A report by CRISIS (2016) indicates that as they use the roads they are consistently paying a substantial high cost for the additional repairs that come with the beat up roads, higher auto insurance and also incur economic losses resulting from inconveniences that result from the poor infrastructure. Driving on the roads in the area cost the motorists an extra 1.2 billion dollars annually in vehicle repairs and operating costs are 408 dollars for every motorist. Moreover, the annual insurance costs in Louisiana are the highest in the country at 1,277 dollars against the lowest in the country which is Lola at 630 dollars (CRISIS 2016). Therefore, it is not sustainable to increase taxation on oil and infrastructural use since it will lead to an increase in the problems facing the common taxpayers. Raising the taxation would further strain the common citizens which would go against the purpose of governance which is to improve the lives of the people and not causing further hurt and strain.
The taxation on the public may not be sufficient and is also unfair to the general populace that has already paid the taxes for the last 30 years without witnessing any marginal changes in the infrastructure (CRISIS 2016). The current problems that the people of Baton Rouge are facing are not as a result of an overnight issue but are a direct result of over 30 years of inattention to the infrastructure. The last major transportation development program in the area was the Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development (TIMED) that was initiated by Governor Roemer as a 15-year initiative. It is this program that was major in an infrastructural development project in the recent history of Baton Rouge and Louisiana as a state despite the fact that there has been continued taxation on the public over the decades (Issue Brief, 2007).
It is also clear that the issue that is facing Louisiana at the moment is so significant and capital intensive that reliance on revenues raised from taxation may take other several years to be enough to address the issue (OECD, 2007). The needs have grown drastically and continue to grow at a sporadic rate. Louisiana needs a major development plan and initiative that is bound to cost billions of dollars. It is imperative that the federal government also plays a role in addressing the transportation issues in the State since the local governance has no capacity to adequately address the infrastructural needs of Baton Rouge and Louisiana in general (Issue Brief, 2007).
The problems facing Baton Rouge majorly stem from two major shortcomings, and that is the structural and financial matters and hence has nothing to do with taxation on the citizens. The structural issues that they face are majorly concerned with the state of governance and management of the systems. It is how the things are done and the level of efficiency and effectiveness of such systems (Issue Brief, 2007). The financial issues that they face deal with the available resources, their adequacy, distribution and utilization and sustainability of the economic models at the state and local levels. Therefore, the general public has little role to play in solving the issues that face the state of infrastructure in the region, but it all boils down to the state and federal governments to find solutions that are both lasting and sustainable.
A cost-benefit analysis from CRISIS recommends that the infrastructural issues in Baton Rouge require the implementation of multiple strategic major projects. They suggest that the highest benefit would directly result from boosting of the highway that covers Mississippi River through the building of a new bridge that would cost up to 1.6 billion dollars (CRISIS 2016). They also recommended the increase of using the U.S. 190 Bridge. It is, therefore, imperative that the administration of Baton Rouge take up strategic and also efficient strategies to address the infrastructural issue that they face in the region. Such revenues with a good strategic framework are within the reach of the budgetary allocations of Baton Rouge and would be manageable instead of taxing the general populace further (Steinberg, et. al., 2011).
The infrastructural issue in Baton Rouge and Louisiana, in general, will not be solved by an infusion of more funding either from taxation or the federal funds. The change will only be visible if there is a change in policy and infrastructure being taken as a serious issue in the region (Theadvocate.com, 2015). The facts were demonstrated by the CRISIS 2014 data that indicated that the Louisiana’s Transportation Trust Fund that is the state’s primary source of transportation spending funded by the state gas tax held $685.6M. Out of the amount, more than 80% of the money was allocated to things other than the infrastructure such as the operations of DOTD, state police and the debt servicing of TIMED program (Theadvocate.com, 2015). It left less than 20% of the revenue to be invested in infrastructural projects. It means that the income having been collected primarily from the taxation on gas, it is still not utilized for the infrastructural improvement of the region meaning that it is not of importance to the policy makers. Therefore, even with an increase in taxation on the population, it will still not solve the transportation menace in the region since the policy frameworks do not prioritize infrastructural development.
The expected output of the taxes is minimal compared to the needs and pressure on the infrastructure in the region. The assumption that increased taxation of the public to fund the infrastructural development in Louisiana as a state and Baton Rouge, in particular, is a financially unsustainable model (Theadvocate.com, 2015). It is important to engage the same public to other alternatives that are more sustainable such as a change in preferences and lifestyle. It would be efficient to have the population avoid the use of personal cars and take up measures such as living closer to workplaces so that they can walk to workplaces (OECD, 2007). One may also encourage the use of the less congesting means such as bicycles just like some countries such as China that have efficiently reduced traffic congestions through the use of bicycle instead of vehicles. The government could also encourage the use of public means of transport such as trains and buses which carry more people at once thus reducing the number of motorists on the already congested roads. Encouraging access to quality transit and walkable communities to lessen the need for car ownership may significantly reduce the congestion (OECD, 2007).
In conclusion, the problem in Baton Rouge is not an issue that came overnight but is an indication of decades of poor infrastructural policies coupled with lean budgets for the sector. The governance may have overlooked the continued demand and pressure on the infrastructure of the region. Traffic and infrastructural issues have also become so significant that it will cost the state billions of dollars that cannot be raised overnight. However, some strategies can be employed to address the issues through the development of work plans on how to expand, upgrade and maintain the existing infrastructure in the region. The state has also been receiving taxes from the public over the years but allocated insufficient funds for addressing the infrastructural issues of the region. As a result, the populace has further incurred other costs such as auto insurance and extra mechanical repair costs due to the inadequate road systems. Therefore, the federal and state governments should find other avenues to fund the repair maintenance and upgrade of the infrastructure in Baton Rouge and Louisiana in general without increasing taxation on the citizens.