More gas price casualties for red rural states: Airports, Essential Volunteer Services, Road Maintenance
|A symbol of fuel gauges nowadays, Steve Sailer's values, and the hope and future rural red states are facing by placing republicans into power|
1) Small rural airports struggle with dwindling air service
PRESCOTT, Arizona (AP) -- The rejection from Air Midwest came swiftly on a one-page fax. The carrier couldn't afford to fly to the mountain community of Prescott anymore, officials said. The city would simply have to find a new tenant for its tiny airport.
"Everything was going fine -- then, bam -- the airline is gone," Mayor Jack Wilson said with a sigh. "That's just not how you do business."
It's a frustration felt across rural America.
The federal government guaranteed numerous small towns and cities air service 30 years ago when it deregulated the industry. But skyrocketing fuel prices have outpaced subsidies from the Essential Air Service program, and many carriers are either trying to re-negotiate their contracts or dropping out altogether.
According to the Department of Transportation, which administers the program, airlines have asked to opt out of subsidy contracts to 20 cities so far this year. That almost matches 2007's total of 24 cities. In 2006, airlines asked to drop contracts for 15 cities.
Meanwhile, the federal government plans to slash its Essential Air Service budget for 2009 to $50 million, less than half of its program budget in each of the last seven years.
Jim Corridore, an analyst at Standard & Poor's, said rural communities should get ready for even fewer flights in the future.
2) Gas Price's Unlikely Victims - High Cost Crimps Travel Tied to Volunteer Programs, Support Services for Shut-Ins
Among the hardest hit by the high price of gasoline is a seemingly unlikely group: People who don't drive.
There's 75-year-old Truzell Fagin of Orlando, Fla., who is recovering from radiation and chemotherapy. Without a car and wheelchair-bound, she applied for Meals on Wheels and was put on a waiting list, along with more than 200 others. The local agency says it is getting too expensive to deliver meals to all who need them. It is one of the 2,000 Meals on Wheels programs nationwide with a waiting list, many of which have said the high price of gasoline is a factor.
For the disabled who are allotted limited transportation funds, the impact is felt differently. With the high price of gas, frequent trips to doctors eat up their allocations. Nonessential travel, which might be 10-mile trips to bulk-food markets where they can stretch their limited budgets, is curtailed.
As millions of people grumble about the high price of gasoline and begin to curtail summer-vacation plans, an indirect and arguably higher toll is being exacted on a largely invisible population.
Essentially homebound, many disabled people rely on others to drive them to a doctor's office or bring them food. They might be frail, partially paralyzed or have multiple sclerosis. Some were recently released from a hospital or are in the last stages of cancer. Although they can be of any age, older adults are more affected because they often live alone and may not have anyone else to drive them.
They look to home-health-care aides to come and bathe them and nurses to arrive to change bandages.
Such support services, which help millions of physically and financially needy people remain at home, are widely considered the wise and more desirable alternative to costly institutions, such as nursing homes or hospitals. They remain so, but the unforeseen explosive and sustained rise in the cost of delivering those services, coupled with insufficient federal, state and local funding and growing demand, threatens their ability to continue.
3) Gas Prices Force Kansas DOT to Cut Back Road Care
So gas prices have most of us making changes to our daily lives; maybe we drive less, or maybe we cut back elsewhere.
Now the state is also feeling the pain at the pump, and it's making some adjustments of it's own.
We drive on state maintained roads every day. But now, thanks to fuel prices Kansas Department of Transportation can't afford to maintain them. "And the price of diesel has gone sky high," said Tom Hein, KDOT spokesperson. With diesel at $4.34 a gallon - that's 20 cents lower than the public pays - KDOT is cutting back on it's usual road care regimen.
So forget about a well manicured highway. "It won't look like a golf course," said Hein.
Now we'll have to settle for a partial mowing, and that may not happen monthly, or get all the grass.
"We've cut down on our mowing. We do not intend to mow quite as much this summer," explained Hein. "Generally, in a more rural area, we'll do a pass or two next to the shoulder."
More big dump trucks will stay parked, and the state will use smaller trucks to car pool.
And then there's the topic of road kill. KDOT used to pick up the road kill, take it somewhere, and dump it. But that uses too much gasoline. So now KDOT is just pushing the road kill off onto the fence line, and into the weeds.
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