Fast Focus 'How should the state finance good roads?' Tax studded tires

January 27, 2013 

As Washington has one of the highest gas taxes in the U.S., some of the tax revenue collected by the gas tax is not used for roads; it's used to make up other shortfalls in the state budget. And a disproportionate share is used to subsidize the state ferry system that a small percentage of the state residents ever use. Is it any surprise Washington has one of the highest road taxes in the nation on gasoline, and mediocre roads at best?

The answer is not to just keep raising the road tax. One way to help make our highway construction and maintenance funds go further would be to either charge studded-tire drivers for the real damage that studded tires cause; or better yet, ban studded tires. Look at the right-hand lane of any concrete roadway. There are the exposed rock, aggregate and grooves from studded tires on passenger cars and light trucks. If the real costs of studded tires were assessed and charged, it would be on the order of hundreds of dollars per tire, per season.

There have been many advances like new tread technology, all season, mud and snow rated tires, plus front-wheel/4-wheel drive, and tire sipping in the last 30 years that reduce the "need" for studded tires. The state has too many drivers who changeover to studs in the first week they're legal and run them till April, causing way more wear and tear than needed on our roads, when the real need is only about one week during the average Tri-City winter. Having lived (and driven) in the Tri-Cities most of my adult life, I have yet to use studded tires.

-- MICHAEL SCRIMSHER, Burbank Heights

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