Last week we mentioned the Washington Post’s assertion that Marylanders will soon be paying some of the nation’s highest prices for gas. (Why are you always hating on us, WaPo!?) It’s true that this spring’s gas tax hike is causing drivers to pay more at the pump. But if that money is spent well — and, yes, that’s a big if — it’s possible we’ll all be saving money in the long term.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 55 percent of Maryland’s roads are of poor or mediocre quality, perhaps because a full 25 percent of our pavement was constructed before 1930! Poorly maintained roads wreak havoc on vehicles to the tune of about $1.6 billion in extra repair costs per year, the ASCE estimates — that’s about $422 per driver. The ASCE translates that to a grade of C-. That’s dismal, to be sure, but slightly better than the national grade of D.
As the ASCE notes, travel and congestion are on the rise in Maryland:  Between 1990 and 2004, vehicle travel on the state’s highways increased by 52 percent, while lane miles increased only 21 percent. Where did all those extra cars go, then? Yep, right in front of yours — Washington DC is the most congested metro area in the country, and Baltimore ranks fifth.

So, yeah — it’s about time that something is done about our roads, andif O’Malley’s billion-dollar transportation plan (which is partially funded by the gas tax) really does allocate $500 million to statewide infrastructure improvements, we might all be saving time and money in the long term.

Or we could all just ditch our cars and take the light rail.