New polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of Transportation for America and partners finds that Americans support expanding public transit by a wide margin—even as many transit agencies face a growing funding crisis brought on by COVID-19.
Fix It First
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 Brookings Institution hosted an event this morning titled “State Roads to Economic Recovery: Policies, Pavements, and Partnership.” The multi-panel event was organized in conjunction with the release of “Fix it First, Expand it Second, Reward it Third – A New Strategy for America’s Highways,” a new report from the Hamilton Project analyzing the impact of state and national transportation infrastructure investments.
Report coauthors Matt Kahn, Professor of Economics at UCLA, and David Levinson, of the University of Minnesota, presented their proposal to a packed crowd. Over 80% of the current U.S. highway system, they explained, was built before 1972 – almost forty years ago. Kahn and Levinson recommend a three-step approach to maintain this aging infrastructure: fix it first, expand it second and reward it third. By focusing on fixing existing infrastructure before creating new, states can boost their economy and maximize the number of jobs created.
As Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, highlighted, state governments are currently under tremendous pressure to transform their economies. Katz identified transportation infrastructure as a crucial future investment to drive growth in metro regions across the country. Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow at Brookings, highlighted how transit systems are necessary to, “move goods, ideas and workers quickly and efficiently.”
Before the rubble had even settled after the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, the road-building lobby was already hard at work spinning creative tales to anyone who would listen about how investment in transit and alternative modes was to blame for thousands of bridges across America being structurally deficient. Not only is it patently absurd to … Continued