Where Gas Taxes Only Serve the Needs of More Sprawl
"Higher gas taxes are (likely) coming across the Midwest, framed by Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans alike as an offensive against potholes — but in reality a boondoggle that will soak taxpayers and create more of the car dependence that has devastated Midwestern cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee," according to an article by Angie Schmitt.
The article breaks down the problem with the new gas tax in each of these states, starting with Michigan. Michigan's proposed gas tax increase of 45 cents would raise up to $2.5 billion a year. While the gas tax has been promoted by a campaign website titled "Fix the Damn Roads," the Michigan Department of Transportation doesn't want to stop with fixing old roads. They want to build new roads.
The state is planning two highway projects for the Detroit region alone totaling $4 billion. According to official population estimates, Southeast Michigan’s population grew only about 1 percent between 2010 and 2018. The growth that did occur was concentrated in the suburbs that these highways are designed to serve. During the same period, Wayne County — where Detroit is located, lost 3.8 percent of its population. Meanwhile, suburban Oakland County grew 4.5 percent.
The stories from Ohio are similar, and Schmitt connects the dots to make the point that highway expansions tend to benefit sprawl while perpetuating the inequities and lack of financial resilience that plagues many of the urban areas in these states.