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Inadequate budget to repair roads

The winter months wreak havoc on not only roads in Johnson County but across the country. Harsh winters that lead to thaws that often begin in February and March are a welcome sight for many people, but for those people who maintain the roads, it’s the beginning of a long list of road repairs.
According to Johnson County Road Superintendent, Tony Jennings, heavy vehicles on the roads, such as cement, gravel and logging trucks cause wear and tear on the road surfaces and contribute to many of the necessary road repairs. As the ground begins to thaw, road surfaces begin to crack. For those areas of the country that are just beginning to see their way out of a long, brutal winter, road budgets have already been pushed to the limit. It leaves road departments wondering where the necessary money will come from to repair these roads.
Johnson County’s Road Department receives its funding from Tennessee’s state-collected gasoline tax. When gasoline consumption across the state decreases, it has a direct effect on county road budgets. According to Jennings, in addition to receiving a percentage of the gasoline tax, Johnson County also receives half of the funds from the county wheel tax money. However, repairs to the roads are costly. The price of materials needed for surface treatments, a hot mix of asphalt, tar and chip, costs approximately $75 a ton, explained Jennings. “It fluctuates with fuel oil prices,” he added. Monies from the State of Tennessee are received by Johnson County monthly that are calculated from a percentage of taxes collected on gasoline, petroleum and motor oil. The price of material necessary for repairs and a decline in gasoline revenues makes a difficult combination for road maintenance and upkeep.
The past two winters have been especially harsh. Jennings is concerned that due to the expenses associated with keeping the county roads safe, the money the department has to operate with is dwindling quickly. “We’re not going to be able to keep the roads up as well as they have been in the past,” Jennings said, “We just don’t have the funds. This has been a really bad winter. The weather has done this to us. The funds just won’t allow us to keep up like in the past.”
Johnson County is not alone regarding its concern about whether their budgeted money will keep up with the costs of road maintenance and repairs. With gasoline road revenue down in many parts of the country, several states are considering going back to gravel roads in response to a smaller budget to maintain their road system. Counties in South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and California have or are considering making the decision to turn asphalt roads back to gravel roads. The rising cost of repairs and a decrease in funding has brought this decision to the forefront.