You know it’s bad when Ashton Kutcher is Tweeting about road closures. Route 405 in Los Angeles is due to be closed for construction this weekend – an event predicted to be so paralyzing for L.A.’s traffic that it’s been dubbed “Carmageddon.”
While L.A. drivers prepare for catastrophe and stock up on canned goods, the 405 road closure illustrates one of the arguments presented in a recent article from Car and Driver magazine. “The State of the Union’s Roads: An Investigative Report” chronicles why so many of America’s roads are in poor condition – and what we should be doing about it.
“The interstates were designed to last 20 or 30 years,” the article explains, “but now some areas are pushing 50 years and handling far more traffic than their planners anticipated. But as we reach into our wallets, we run into our generation’s big dilemma: We’re nearly broke.” Highway revenues are down, repair costs are up and the federal government can’t afford the level of road investments it committed to in past years. While gas prices and time wasted in congestion are both soaring, more people are living in cities than ever before, which leads even Car and Driver to question the logic of doubling down on highways:
With a vast majority of Americans living and working in urban areas, why not adjust formulas to account for the new population distribution?
This country has not had a comprehensive transportation strategy in decades, but now is an excellent time to consider one. And that means we need to take a hard look at what role highways should play and how they fit into the broader transportation network. Sprawling car-centric cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Dallas are rushing to build new mass-transit systems—they have to; the roads they have cannot satisfy demand. So they must harmonize with other modes of transportation to reduce the stress on existing roadways as much as possible.
It’s remarkable to see a bastion of car culture like Car and Driver advocating for better public transportation options, and this article reflects just how troubled the country’s roads truly are. Transportation options that reduce the burden on America’s road are an important way to keep these assets in better condition for longer. More importantly, providing more transportation options for all Americans and creating transportation systems that meet the unique needs and connect metropolitan regions, small towns, and rural areas are all vital parts of keeping America competitive in a global, 21st century economy and one which we hope to see made a priority in federal policy and across the country.