Still rambling down the road to ruin

If more local residents would ride CARTA buses like this one, we might not need to extend — or is that complete? — I-526.

With apologies to John Donne:

Ask not for whom the I-526 bill tolls.

It tolls for thee.

Or at least it shall toll for thee — but presumably not me — if such a user’s fee is imposed on drivers to fund the completion (or would that be the extension?) of I-526.

Charleston County Council passed a resolution Thursday listing a toll, a sales-tax referendum, and unspecified federal, state and local sources as potential revenue lanes for the long-delayed project.

The $644 million cost of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, completed in 2005, still feels like a bargain — especially for us Mount Pleasant residents.

However, the projected price tag of the 526 extension (or is that the completion?) has climbed to $700 million — and roughly half of that sum is still elusive.

The State Infrastructure Bank gave the county until March 30 to cite “specified, dedicated funding sources” that would cover the rest of the tab.

OK, so Thursday was April 7 — eight days past the SIB deadline. Plus, that council resolution solution sounds much more like a wish list than “specified, dedicated funding sources” for completing (or is that extending?) I-526.

Another caution signal:

More lanes nearly always beget more development, which begets more people, which begets more traffic, which begets demands for more costly infrastructure in a cycle tantamount to a traffic breeder reactor.

Meanwhile, existing roads and bridges in our state continue to dangerously decay.

And before paving the way for an I-526 toll, keep in mind that not all drivers should be subject to such a charge.

For instance, essential public-service personnel — police, firefighters, doctors, ambulance drivers, secret agents and, of course, journalists — must retain free destination-reaching range to facilitate the fulfillments of their indispensable duties.

Anyway, we wouldn’t need a toll — or an I-526 extension (or is that a completion?) — if more folks would use mass transit, carpool and/or ride bicycles rather than cranking up those ever-growing ranks of carbon-belching engines.

Hey, judging from the all-too-visible rampant obesity in these parts, lots of you should pedal bikes on a regular basis to reduce not just our collective traffic but your excessive girth.

Now test yourself in and out of the traffic topic (answers at column’s end):

1) Name who wrote: “Common sense and careful observation tell us that the water systems, roads and many other parts of America’s infrastructure are badly in need of modernization and repair. ... According to the federal government’s national income statistics, since 2003 expenditures on major entitlement programs by all levels of government have risen 15 percent faster than revenues. At the same time, according to the Congressional Budget Office, public infrastructure spending adjusted for the price of materials used in construction has declined by 9 percent. ... Entitlement restraint, which is necessary to ensure the nation’s economic health, can also free up resources to rehabilitate public infrastructure.”

2) Name who wrote:

“My hat don’t hang on the same nail too long,

My ears can’t stand to hear the same old song,

An’ I don’t leave the highway long enough to bog down in the mud,

Cause I’ve got ramblin’ fever in my blood”

3) Name who wrote:

“I can still hear the music in the restroom,

Sad song don’t care whose heart it breaks,

I can still hear the music in the restroom,

But it can’t see the hurt that’s on my face”

4) Name who said: “Senator (Marlon) Kimpson, are you really OK with a big old hairy-legged man in the women’s room? Are you all right with that?”

5) Name who wrote:

“All you do is slow me down,

And I’m trying to get on the other side of town”

1) George Shultz and John Cogan delivered those infrastructure-and-entitlements-crises insights in a guest column (“Finding the Money for America the Fixer-Upper”) in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. Shultz served as Secretary of Labor, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon, and Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan. Cogan served as director of the OMB under Reagan.

2) Merle Haggard, who died Wednesday on his 79th birthday, wrote those highway-habit lines in “Ramblin’ Fever,” a 1977 country hit for him.

3) Tom T. Hall wrote “I Can Still Hear the Music in the Restroom,” a 1975 country hit for Jerry Lee Lewis. The song is cited here in honor of another bizarre bill from state Sen. Lee Bright. The latest not-so-bright idea from the Spartanburg Republican targets the dubiously perceived menace of women’s restroom invasions by transgender people previously known as men — or by men who don dresses to obtain such access.

4) WTMA-AM 1250 “Morning Show” host Charlie James, shortly after interviewing Bright on Friday and backing his bathroom bill, posed those questions in response to Thursday’s Statehouse ridicule of it by Sen. Kimpson, a Charleston Democrat.

5) Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970 at age 27, wrote those lines in “Crosstown Traffic,” a single from his 1968 album “Electric Ladyland.”

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.