Forecaster Forum: LePage transportation policy is off the rails

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Gov. Paul LePage’s effort to tax electric cars is just another of his ways to avoid real issues and pin hurt on a gleaming industry. It is an extreme agenda that does little to solve issues and causes greater divide of a fractured government.

I reduced my toll on the earth by 40 percent by driving electric vehicles. Their purchase price was higher, but as with all technology, prices drop and the ranges improve. We hope they are the future, but currently, we are no where near that. This tax revenue would be a fraction of our transportation budget.

We should be raising the gas tax by 20-60 cents per gallon and increasing tolls for trucks. The bigger the gas-guzzler, the more you pay. The rest of the world is thinking “Do I really need to pollute this much” and “How can I reduce my vehicle size and cost.” We are buying bigger SUVs, increasing fuel use and pollution. Vehicle efficiency is improving, but it is not even close to where it needs to be, especially with the Trump administration eliminating efficiency standards.

Large SUVs and trucks are causing the massive damage to our crumbling infrastructure and irrevocable harm to our atmosphere. A single tractor trailer, skipping the Maine Turnpike toll via Route 100 from Portland to Auburn, can cause the damage of thousands of cars in a single trip A single heavy SUV can cause the damage of 100 small cars.

This “damage” tax could pay for our roads. Let’s put a portion of that revenue into clean and efficient rail transportation, including passenger and freight services, instead of turning our last veins of clean transportation into bike trails. Let’s convert a lane of the interstate and make that into the bike trail. These are ideas we should be considering.

Cumberland resident Paul Weiss is a founding member of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition and a member of the Maine Sierra Club’s Transportation and Energy Committee.