WyDOT still short funds with fuel tax hike

The 10-cent fuel tax increase that goes into effect July 1 will not generate enough funding to move the Wyoming Department of Transportation out of its preservation mode.

FuelTaxGraphicWYDOT District 5 District Engineer Shelby Carlson, speaking at a State Transportation Improvement Program meeting at the courthouse last Thursday, said each penny of Wyoming fuel tax provides $7.2 million annually. The funding, however, is distributed not just to WYDOT, but also to cities, counties and state parks. WYDOT received nearly 66 percent of the funding, with the counties receiving 22.81 percent, cities 9.46 percent and state parks 1.81 percent.

Over half of the fuel tax collected in Wyoming comes from non-residents, she said, through trucking, commerce and tourism.

Carlson said while the tax will go into effect July 1 there is usually about a two-month lag between collection and disbursement. She added that WYDOT runs on the federal fiscal year from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and thus would only likely see about $5.9 million in fiscal year 2013. For fiscal year 2014, Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014, the state should see $71.9 million generated with $47.4 million distributed to WYDOT.

The increase of 10 cents per gallon brings the total fuel tax to 24 cents with 1-cent per gallon set aside for the Leaking Underground Storage Tank mitigation. She said there is discussion about doing away with this distribution since most of the underground storage tanks have been mitigated.

Neighboring states

The 24-cent fuel for Wyoming is comparable to neighboring states, Carlson said. Montana has 27.75 cents per gallon on gasoline and 28.6 cents for diesel; South Dakota is 24 cents on both, Nebraska is 27.2 cents on gasoline and 26.6 cents on diesel, Colorado is 22 and 20.5, Utah 24.5 cents on both and Idaho is 25 cents on both.

Carlson said that, per the state Legislature, WYDOT can only use the additional funding from the 10-cent increase for construction. She said cities and counties do not have that stipulation and can use the funding the same as the other fuel tax funding.

She said they also cannot use the tax on interstates.

“Our focus, not exclusively, is on non-national highway system routes,” Carlson said, adding that they want to put the funding toward roads that are harder to get federal funding for.

Wyoming has 914 miles of national highway system (NHS) interstate roads, an additional 1,148 miles of Wyoming NHS roads, which are routes with national significance that cross the state. There are 4,721 miles of other highways with the state owning 3,924 miles.

“We needed $135 million so we’ll still be $62 million short,” to accomplish all road repair and reconstruction needs in the state, she said,

Preservation program

With the shortage, she said WYDOT is still planning their pavement preservation program. Under the program, WYDOT is planning to have 63 percent of construction funding designated for preservation projects by fiscal year 2015.

Carlson said the focus will be to reduce the decline in Wyoming’s overall road condition, keep ‘good roads good,’ but noted poor roads may get worse. She said there are no roads within Big Horn County that would end up going to gravel at this point.

She said under the pavement preservation program travel congestion may increase.

“There is no funding to build additional capacity,” she said.

By KARLA POMEROY, Basin Republican Rustler