Maine cannot pay for its transportation system with current revenues, and unless major changes are made, this crisis will grow intolerably worse.

This is the conclusion of the Maine Better Transportation Association, a group made up of businesses that rely on a working transportation system. The findings included in a recent study should be considered a call for action by Maine’s lawmakers when they get to work in earnest next month.

The group’s recommendations, which include a higher gas tax, support of road projects from the state’s general fund and exploring expanded use of toll roads, are not likely to make many people happy. But neither will the consequences of letting our roads and bridges continue to decline.

Among the group’s alarming findings:

One-third of Maine road accidents are caused by road design defects or deteriorated road conditions.

On average, Mainers spend $250 a year repairing damage to vehicles that was caused by bad roads.

All together, Mainers spend four times more dealing with the consequences of bad roads than they do on the gas tax, the source of funding for building and fixing good roads.

The group makes a powerful case for raising the gas tax, and anyone who opposes its increase should be ready to come up with an alternative that is any more palatable.

Even though there are more drivers and more vehicles on the roads than there were two decades ago, the state collects less from the gas tax than it did. That’s because the tax is charged per gallon and makes no allowance for more-efficient vehicles.

As a result, Maine has $6.3 billion in identified needs over the next 10 years, and expects to collect only $3.2 billion to pay for them.

Maine moves 95 percent of passenger travel and 87 percent of freight on roads, and viable transportation affects nearly every industry from paper-making to tourism. As a state we can’t afford to let our transportation infrastructure fall apart.

There won’t be any single solution. Private investments, like the proposed East/West Highway or expansion of freight rail, could pick up some of the slack.

But lawmakers will be hard-pressed to make this system work without making some major changes in the way we pay for roads.