Blind Spots: New research on dangerous, unhealthy corridors


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.

Complete Streets Economic development Transportation

Repair Priorities raises concerns about state road spending

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.

Report: Deferred road repair poses financial liability [American City & County, 6/6/11]

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.

Could Focusing on Repairs Please Everyone? [National Journal, 6/6/11]

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.

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Smart growth news – June 9, 2011

Report: Deferred road repair poses financial liability
American City and County, June 6, 2011
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, according to a new report from Washington-based Smart Growth America (SGA) and Taxpayers for Common Sense. The report, “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.

U.S. Road Expansion Costing Taxpayers
The City Fix blog, June 8, 2011
A smaller initial investment in renewed priorities of road maintenance actively reduces the scale of future costs, found a new report by Smart Growth America. “Rehabilitating a road that has deteriorated is substantially more expensive than keeping that road in good condition,” the report says.

Scrimping on highway repairs leaves states in a bind
GovPro.com, June 8, 2011
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, according to a new report from Washington-based Smart Growth America (SGA) and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Metro Detroit’s bus system fight may risk millions
Detroit Free Press, June 8, 2011
Metro Detroit has its most realistic chance in a generation of creating a rail and bus transit system that could transform how the region commutes and launch economic redevelopment from downtown to the suburbs. But if Detroit and tri-county leaders can’t agree on combining city and suburban bus systems — an ambition that has eluded the region for decades — they risk forfeiting millions in federal money.

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Smart growth news – June 8, 2011

Could Focusing on Repairs Please Everyone?
National Journal, June 6, 2011
Smart Growth America partnered with Taxpayers for Common Sense on the recent report “Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads” to point out that our nation’s highway infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. 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. The same approach is called for in managing other assets – our bridges, our transit systems, and our bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

Phineas Baxandall: It’s pretty basic arithmetic. If states didn’t divert 57 percent of highway money to build new lane miles, they could double spending on repair and maintenance without raising an additional dime of new taxes, tolls or federal bailouts. America’s roads are in disrepair largely because of the wrong priorities. A recent example is Wisconsin, where Governor Walker ran TV commercials touting how he would invest in repairing the states roads and bridges. But his transportation budget last month instead cuts funds for local road repair while committing the state to four new highway expansions that could cost more than $2 billion.

Freedom From Oil: Policy Solutions Released by the Congressional Livable Communities Task Force
Sustainable Business News, June 7, 2011
The Congressional Livable Communities Task Force, chaired by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and consisting of all Democrats, released recommendations which will wean the US off oil, while creating much more livable communities…Its policy recommendations [include]: Authorize the Office of Sustainable Communities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provide funding to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities so the agencies can continue to provide technical assistance, planning, and capital support to communities.

Regretting Move, Bank May Return to Manhattan
New York Times, June 8, 2011
UBS is having buyer’s remorse. It turns out that a suburban location has become a liability in recruiting the best and brightest young bankers, who want to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, not in Stamford, Conn., which is about 35 miles northeast of Midtown.

Georgia: Fierce opposition in Fayette to transportation tax
Atlanta Constitution-Journal (Ga.), June 8, 2011
The county’s green landscape — offering a feeling of seclusion — has helped make Fayette the birthplace of opposition to paying an extra penny in sales tax for transportation improvements both in and out of the county. The 10-county region will vote in 2012 on whether to tax itself for such projects.

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Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads

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.

Click here to read the full report, state-specific data and view the interactive map.

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