A new opinion piece in the Washington Post from Transportation for America takes a contrarian view of all the talk about money during Infrastructure Week. In short, let’s skip a special infrastructure plan and focus on policy; without good policy more spending could actually do more harm than good.
It’s Infrastructure Week again and politicians are back at it, bemoaning our “crumbling roads and bridges” and insisting we must spend more to fix the problem. But we’ve got some cold water to throw on this pity party: Despite more transportation spending over the last decade, the percentage of the roads nationwide in “poor condition” increased from 14 to 20 percent.
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.
Yesterday we unveiled Repair Priorities 2014: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads. The release featured an online discussion with leaders from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, as well as state transportation department representatives from Vermont, Michigan and Tennessee. Panelists shared insights and strategies for how states are managing their road repair needs in a time of constrained budgets by using tools like asset management practices; focusing repair investments on the most heavily used roads; setting aggressive targets for pavement conditions; and using cost-benefit analysis to prioritize road investments.
If you were not able to join us for yesterday’s event, an archived recording is now available.
|Watch the archived webinar|
|Download the presentation (PDF)|
Joining yesterday’s event were Roger Millar, Vice President, Smart Growth America; Steve Ellis, Vice President, Taxpayers for Common Sense; Rich Tetreault, Director of Program Development, Vermont Agency on Transportation, Polly Kent, Administer, Intermodal Policy Division, Michigan Department of Transportation; and Steve Allen, Strategic Transportation Investments Director, Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Thank you to everyone who participated. The event provided valuable insights for how states can improve road conditions for drivers and the financial outlook of America’s DOTs at the same time.
State departments of transportation (DOTs) are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have—despite the fact that roads are crumbling, financial liabilities are mounting and conditions are not improving for America’s drivers.
The amount states would need to spend to bring roads in poor condition into a state of good repair while also maintaining their existing systems.
Those are the findings of Repair Priorities 2014: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads, a new report out today from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense. The report examines road conditions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, how much states currently invest in road repair and how much they would need to spend to adequately maintain America’s roads.
A crew from the Virginia Department of Transportation fills potholes. Photo by VDOT via Flickr.
How much would your state need to spend to repair its roads? Most likely the answer to that question is “a lot.” In some cases, state DOTs could spend their entire annual budget on repair and maintenance and still have work left to do. So why are many states making the problem even worse by continuing to spend scarce transportation dollars expanding their road networks?
In two weeks, Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense will address this question with the release of the 2014 edition of Repair Priorities.
State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) across the country face tightening budgets, and one DOT recently stepped up to make the most of the funds it has.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) has positioned itself responsibly for the future. On November 16, the agency announced it will stop approving highway expansion projects and will focus resources toward repair of the state’s existing road system. This announcement comes just months after the publication of Repair Priorities, a report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, which made recommendations along these lines.
Harrisburg, PA’s former City Hall building. The city of Harrisburg filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Photo by Flickr user Wally Gobetz.
Smart growth can reduce costs for municipal governments, and with so many towns in America struggling financially it’s time more places use these fiscally responsible strategies.
News this week from Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Florida and Maine highlight the fact that many small cities are struggling to make ends meet. Cash-strapped and unable to cover costs, many municipalities are tightening their belts and some are raising taxes. Most notably, the city of Harrisburg, PA filed for bankruptcy yesterday, unable to generate enough revenue to meet its expenses.
The Woodward light rail project, now under way in Detroit, will give residents better ways to get around and support the city’s business districts at the same time. First discussed by the Detroit Department of Transportation in 2006, the light rail line will run from Detroit’s Hart Plaza to the city limits at Eight Mile … Continued
The nation’s deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 870,000 jobs, and suppress the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product by $3.1 trillion by 2020 according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).