A road crew repaving Main Street in Lancaster, OH. Photo by Robert Batina via Flickr.
In 2008, just 6 percent of roads in Ohio were listed as being in “poor” condition. By 2011, though, that number had ballooned to 20 percent — the state was failing to keep up with needed repairs. Yet during that same time Ohio spent millions of dollars building new roads, taking funds away from repair work and adding to the state’s future repair burden.
Many states across the country are in similar predicaments. As Smart Growth America detailed in our 2014 report Repair Priorities, between 2009 and 2011 states collectively spent $20.4 billion annually to build new roads and add new lanes — projects that accounted for just 1 percent of their total road system. During that same time, states spent just $16.5 billion annually repairing and preserving the other 99 percent of their roads. This despite the fact that roads conditions were deteriorating faster than many states could fix them.
The good news is that several state departments of transportation (DOTs) are now recognizing this problem and taking steps to correct it. Just last week, news broke that the Ohio DOT is expected to announce a new “fix-it-first” policy that will prioritize road repair over expansion across the agency. As UrbanCincy noted, “Officials say the move is economically driven [but] it also comes at a time as activists around the country – including numerous cities throughout Ohio — are increasingly calling for…a “fix-it-first” policy.”
If and when its new policy is announced, Ohio will join many other states that have adopted a “fix-it-first” approach, including California, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.* The approach each of these states is taking can help keep roads in good conditions for their residents while also reducing future financial liabilities for the DOT.
We look forward to following Ohio’s “fix-it-first” plans, and will continue to help state DOT leaders change their investments for the better. If your state is interested in learning more about prioritizing investment in repair, take a look at our Repair Priorities report.
*Update, February 1: An earlier version of this post included Wisconsin among the states with fix-it-first policies. After some consideration, we have decided to remove them.—Ed.