Welch: Gas tax is vital for better Vermont roads - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Welch: Gas tax is vital for better Vermont roads

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Rep. Peter Welch Rep. Peter Welch

The Highway Trust Fund is in trouble. The federal money pays for most road and bridge repairs around the country and Congress says it's running out.

Officials say the best solution for this problem is to pay more at the pump. The idea has Vermonters who fuel up speaking out.

"The roads need repairing that's for sure. Guess the money's got to come from somewhere," said Darren White, Bakersfield.

White is just one of many concerned about the condition of roads and bridges throughout Vermont. Some of which are cracked and crumbling.

"I'm willing to pay it to fix our roads which are falling apart and our bridges which are falling apart," said Thomas Talbot, Fletcher.

State and highway officials met to discuss possible ways to replenish the national Highway Trust Fund, which they say is running out of money. The federal trust fund pays for most of the road and bridge maintenance across the United States.

"The alternative to no revenue source is congressional gridlock and that's where we're at right now and this is going to have a very negative impact on our roads and bridges," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont.

But it's not just the interstate bridges that will be impacted, it's smaller bridges like the one in Fairfield as well. Welch says if more money doesn't go into the Highway Trust Fund, not only will travelers suffer but workers as well.

"It could impact 2,800 jobs, 970 of which would be construction jobs," said Cathleen Lamberton, Associated General Contractors of Vermont.

There are 38 highway construction projects scheduled to start Aug. 1 and they are threatened to be delayed or stopped altogether because the fund is running short. Officials say an increase in the federal gas tax would fix the problem.

"Gas tax is always controversial, but it's the thing that's worked and helped us build this extraordinary interstate highway system," said Welch.

But some drivers say driving up the price of gas will drain their wallets and that fuel is too costly already.

"I don't think the gas prices should have to go up just to fix the roads. It's hard for people that don't have a lot of money to pay for gas especially when you have to travel far away for jobs," Lori Britch, Enosburg.

For some, a smoother ride is worth the cost.

"If you know it's going for the roads you can kind of put up with it," said White.

The plan for a gas tax increase has not yet gone before Congress, it's just an idea. But congressman Welch says he would back the plan if proposed.

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