A Pothole 26 Years Deep

October 8th, 2015

Common sense would dictate that a fixed dollar amount set in 1989 cannot pay to fix today what it was set to fix then.

Ask anybody on a fixed income.

Let’s face it, the majority of people who represent us in Nashville and in Washington would rather put every single one of us at risk every day on our roads and bridges than raise a tax, risk every tire and axle in a pothole rather than risk the loss of a pot of campaign money from tax-phobic PACs or raise the ire of tax-obsessed teapots.

Common sense would dictate that we should be raising hell about that.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, October 9, 2015, and in The Memphis News, October 10-16, 2015

Pothole 2


Let’s pretend you can get three cans of tomato soup at Seessel’s for a buck instead of just one, a six-pack of Bud for four bucks instead of six or seven, and a pound of hamburger for 89¢ instead of five bucks. Hell, let’s pretend there’s a Seessel’s.

Let’s pretend a Hershey bar, a liter of Coke and a new car cost about half today’s going price, that gas is about $1 a gallon instead of between $2 or $3, that Oreos go for about 21¢ each instead of 38¢, and that a cup of coffee is worth a quarter instead of several dollars. Hell, let’s pretend a pound of coffee is still 16 oz. instead of 12.

Let’s pretend the average family in Tennessee and Memphis makes 70-75% of what they make now, and lives in a house that costs about 40% less. Hell, let’s pretend a dollar from decades ago buys a dollar of anything today, that big-buck problems can be solved with penny-ante politics.

Let’s pretend it’s 1989. Hell, the Tennessee legislature does.

That’s the last time they raised the fuel tax, the money that fixes our roads and bridges across the state and here in Shelby County. The tax is 21.4¢ a gallon, the cost of that Oreo in 1989, and it still is, but now the Oreo is 38¢. Our roads and infrastructure are falling apart, the vital Lamar corridor has turned into a game of chicken for semis on a dirt bike course, and our legislature is saying tough cookie, we’re not passing anything. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris gave Haslam a condescending pat on the head and said the governor’s 15-city tour to talk about the possibility of raising the fuel tax was a dead end – we’re not passing anything. Just last week, Senate Transportation and Safety Commissioner Chair Jim Tracy was here as part of a nine-city tour – purely symbolic since he’s already promised out-of-state puppeteers that, all together now, we’re not passing anything.

Driven anywhere lately? Spilled any coffee, bent any rims, or knocked any teeth loose?

Of the 11 states that care as little or even less than we do about roads and infrastructure, it should come as no surprise that several are neighbors.

My recent drive to the coast through Mississippi felt like my father’s stories about driving my grandparents to Biloxi in 1923, except I didn’t have to ford any streams. Not yet. They should add “scary all the time” to “slippery when wet” on bridge signs.

If you make it through the cluster truck that is West Memphis, it’s far from smooth sailing on the highways and byways of Arkansas.

And it’s not just around here. Rolling across the country is getting bumpier and bumpier as infrastructure legislation – all legislation – is in a national traffic jam.

What’s the difference between raising fuel taxes and gas? The Tennessee legislature and the United States Congress pass gas.

I’m a Memphian, and I’ll be here all week. Tip your server.


I'm a Memphian by Dan Conaway

If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.

The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.



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