Today, Smart Growth America, joined by 36 other organizations and researchers, submitted a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau opposing the Bureau’s plan to limit the geography of data from the block and tract level to the county level. Their proposed change would be devastating to the research SGA and many other groups conduct.
This year, Smart Growth America continued to produce vital research and other content that is changing the conversation around critical issues. This resources fuel our advocacy across the country and in the nation’s capital, fighting for a future that is healthy, prosperous, and resilient.
Designing the commercial corridors where we live, work, and shop to move high volumes of cars as quickly as possible isn’t just dangerous. It also has severe consequences for health, economic viability, and equity along these corridors. We collaborated with the Urban Land Institute on a new research report that measures the impact of unsafe, unhealthy corridor conditions; examines how common these conditions are across the country; and digs into what can be done to change this trend.
Smart Growth America’s most recent report, Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and repair roads, was released last week in partnership with Taxpayers for Common Sense. Since then, questions about why states invested over half of repair and expansion funds in new roads between 2004 and 2008 have led to concerns about spending priorities and the financial liabilities states are creating by continuing to expand roads at the cost of repair.
Some states’ habit of spending on new road construction rather than on regular repair have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and costs to repair those roads are rising faster than states can address them… “Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads,” examines road conditions and spending priorities nationwide and recommends changes at both the state and federal levels that the organization says can reduce future liabilities, benefit taxpayers and create a better transportation system.
It’s more cost effective to focus on the repairs, even though they may not win mayoral or city council elections…Is there a grand bargain to be struck here? Could a focus–mandated from Congress–on repair and maintenance, instead of new construction, reduce the cost of a surface-transportation bill such that the legislating process could begin in earnest?
Geoff Anderson: Preservation and repair are critical components of reauthorization of our surface transportation bill, and should serve as the foundation of any new bill…As highways deteriorate they become exponentially more expensive to repair. The fiscally responsible approach is to preserve more of our highways in good condition, and to make the needed repairs early—when it costs taxpayers significantly less.
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.