An extensive and wide-reaching campaign for a Complete Streets policy in Billings, Montana hit its mark late last month. Montana’s biggest city joins three others in committing to safer, healthier streets for all.
Decades of underinvestment in regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and the cost of repairing these roads is rising faster than many states can address them. These liabilities are outlined in a new report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, released today, which examines road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report recommends changes at both the state and federal level that can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.
Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads found that between 2004 and 2008 states spent 43 percent of total road construction and preservation funds on repair of existing roads, while the remaining 57 percent of funds went to new construction. That means 57 percent of these funds was spent on only 1 percent of the nation’s roads, while only 43 percent was dedicated to preserving the 99 percent of the system that already existed. As a result of these spending decisions, road conditions in many states are getting worse and costs for taxpayers are going up.
“Federal taxpayers have an enormous stake in seeing that our roads are kept in good condition,” said Erich W. Zimmermann of Taxpayers for Common Sense at a briefing earlier today. “Billions of precious tax dollars were spent to build our highway system, and neglecting repair squanders that investment. Keeping our roads in good condition reduces taxpayers’ future liabilities.”
“Spending too little on repair and allowing roads to fall apart exposes states and the federal government to huge financial liabilities,” said Roger Millar of Smart Growth America. “Our findings show that in order to bring their roads into good condition and maintain them that way, states would collectively have to spend $43 billion every year for the next 20 years – more than they currently spend on all repair, preservation and new capacity combined. As this figure illustrates, state have drifted too far from regular preservation and repair and in so doing have created a deficit that is going to take decades to reverse.”
The high cost of poor conditions
According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6-14 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly. Investing too little on road repair increases these future liabilities, and with every dollar spent on new construction many states add to a system they are already failing to keep in good condition.
State and federal leaders can do more to see that highway funds are spent in ways that benefits driver and taxpayers. More information about the high cost of delaying road repair, how states invest their transportation dollars and what leaders can do to address these concerns is available in the full report.
Last week, Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute convened a two-day-long “Introduction to Infill” workshop in Billings, Montana. Infill is a development strategy that uses land within an already built-up area for further construction, focusing on reusing and repositioning obsolete or underutilized buildings and sites.
Together with the City of Billings, the Billings Association of Realtors, the Billings Home Builders Association, Healthy By Design, the Montana Association of Planners, Cole Law Firm, the Western Central Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Billings Chamber of Commerce, the workshop offered expert perspectives on infill development to the community in preparation for the City’s goal of developing an Infill Policy. This type of development is essential to renewing blighted neighborhoods and knitting them back together with more prosperous communities.
More than 80 participants from Montana and North Dakota attended the two-day workshop on April 26 and 27 in Billings. The workshop provided an overview of the state-of-the-practice, as well as the application of infill policies to specific issues – economic development, transportation, private sector involvement, and examples of infill development in Billings and around the country. Local perspectives were also provided through several sessions comprised of local developers, consultants, City staff and other organizations.
The workshop was designed to start the process of developing an infill policy for the City of Billings. A portion of the workshop was devoted to discussing the basic elements of an infill policy and beginning to define infill for Billings. A working group will be formed from the workshop attendees and others in the community in the coming months to develop a draft infill policy to present to the City Council for consideration in late 2011 or early 2012.
More information about the workshop, including the days’ agenda, workshop session descriptions and presentations are available at the City of Billings’ website. If you would like to know more about Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute’s workshops and seminars, visit https://smartgrowthamerica.org/leadership-institute or email leadershipinstitute [at] smartgrowthamerica [dot] org.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” to win the future. To rebuild America, he said, we will aim to put “more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.”
A new report from Smart Growth America analyzes states’ investments in infrastructure to determine whether they made the best use of their spending based on job creation numbers. Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation evaluates how successful states have been in creating jobs with their flexible $26.6 billion of transportation funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Those results should guide governors and other leaders in revitalizing America’s transportation system, maximizing job creation from transportation dollars and rebuilding the economy.
According to data sent by the states to Congress, the states that created the most jobs were the ones that invested in public transportation projects and projects that maintained and repaired existing roads and bridges. The states that spent their funds predominantly building new roads and bridges created fewer jobs.
As Newsweek’s David A. Graham explains, investments in transportation create jobs in the short term and longer term economic prosperity too:
Injecting money into transportation projects, the thinking goes, is an especially potent jobs-creation tool because it not only puts construction workers and contractors to work quickly, it also lays the groundwork for future economic growth and development. Obama predicted the transportation money alone would put hundreds of thousands of workers on the job.
As “Recent Lessons from the Stimulus” explains, not all transportation projects reap these benefits equally:
[S]tates spent more than a third of the money on building new roads—rather than working on public transportation and fixing up existing roads and bridges. The result of the indiscriminate spending? States missed out on potentially thousands of new jobs—and bridges, roads, and overpasses around the country are still crumbling. Meanwhile, the states that did put dollars toward public transportation were richly rewarded: Each dollar used on transit was 75 percent more effective at putting people to work than a dollar used for highway work.
A new report released today by Smart Growth America and the Natural Resources Defense Council found that transportation policies in every state could save money and reduce carbon emissions by making smarter decisions with state funds.
In “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” SGA and NRDC found that current transportation policies in almost all 50 states either fail to curb carbon emission rates or, in some cases, actually increase emissions. This contradiction between state policies and broader efforts to reduce carbon emissions means not only that many states are missing opportunities to protect clean air; it means they are missing economic opportunities as well.
In a press conference this morning, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening remarked:
Transportation makes up an enormous proportion of our national economy and our environmental impact: it must be front and center as we think about how to get the most out of our public investments. The states that rose to the top in this report, California, Maryland and New Jersey, are there because they are meeting the challenge to innovate.
This week we report on: three new policies adopted by Bozeman, MT, Franklin, PA, and the Madison County Council of Governments in Indiana and policy progress in several more communities and states.
This week in Complete Streets news, we celebrate three new policies, bringing the national total to 110 jurisdictions! We’ve also got news from Kentucky and Mississippi, plus much more.