Condition of U.S. Roads & Bridges
With 45 percent of roads in less than good condition and 12 percent of bridges structurally deficient, the U.S. faces severe infrastructure needs that significantly impact the nation's economy. State governments face huge gaps between how much they need to spend to repair roads in the coming years and how much they expect to have under current funding. While there are some state success stories, the infrastructure in other states is in danger of backsliding. This brief makes the case for encouraging Congress to consider legislation reauthorizing federal transportation programs soon and for taking steps to ensure infrastructure improvements are adequately funded.
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The U.S. faces significant infrastructure challenges:
- More than 150,000 miles—or 45 percent—of federal highways and major roads in the U.S. are not in good condition, according to the Federal Highway Administration.1
- More than 71,000 of the nation’s bridges—12 percent—are rated as structurally deficient. More than 78,000 are rated as functionally obsolete.2
- More than 20 states this year will likely reduce transportation investments because of federal inaction on a new surface transportation authorization bill.3
The condition of U.S. roads and bridges has a significant economic impact:
- Poor road conditions cost U.S. motorists $67 billion a year in repairs and operating costs, an average of $335 per motorist.4
- The Associated General Contractors of America estimates the construction industry loses $23 billion annually due to delays caused by traffic congestion.5
- The Washington, D.C.-based transportation research group The Road Information Program reported that Michigan, especially hard hit by the recession, will face a difficult time recovering economically unless it upgrades its deteriorating transportation system.6
- According to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the state will lose 12,000 jobs and the chance to revive its economy if new money is not invested. Doubling the investment in roads and bridges on the other hand could generate more than 15,000 jobs and pave the way for an economic turnaround.7
States face significant gaps in trying to meet infrastructure needs:
- Wyoming faces a $2.2 billion shortfall over the next 16 years between the transportation funds it expects to receive and the money it needs to keep roads in their current conditions.8 One-fourth of Wyoming’s major roads are in poor condition and 42 percent of state-maintained roads will be in poor condition by 2015 if current funding levels aren’t increased.9
- North Carolina faces a $65 billion transportation funding shortfall over the next 20 years to maintain its current transportation system and to meet future transportation needs. The state used its $735 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to partially offset an estimated $905 million drop in transportation revenues due to the economic downturn.
- The stimulus money was not enough to allow the state to proceed with numerous high-priority infrastructure projects.10
- Mississippi needs $6 billion more than the $6.5 billion expected under current funding to meet the state’s surface transportation infrastructure challenges through 2019.11
- California faces an annual highway transportation shortfall of $4 billion.12
- New York needs to spend $175 billion from 2010 to 2030 to maintain roads, highways, bridges and transit systems and to provide adequate mobility. But under current funding formulas, the state expects revenues will be less than half that amount, resulting in a transportation funding shortfall of at least $87 billion from 2010 to 2030.13
- The West Virginia Department of Transportation projects a transportation funding shortfall of approximately $5 billion from 2009 to 2018.14
- The Maine Department of Transportation estimates through 2019, $6.5 billion will be needed to improve road and bridge conditions, relieve congestion, and enhance safety and economic development. However, only $3.2 billion will be available under current funding.15
- The amount needed just to maintain the state and local road and bridge system in North Dakota is $254 million per year greater than the amount of funding available.16
- Kansas faces a $6.4 billion gap over the next 10 years to maintain the condition of its major roads, highways and bridges, to relieve traffic congestion and to enhance economic development opportunities by expanding key sections of the state’s roads and making improvements to the state’s public transit system.17
- Minnesota faces a $50 billion shortfall between now and 2028 to fund needed projects to achieve state priorities for safety, mobility and infrastructure preservation.18
A lack of available infrastructure funding is causing some states to backslide:
- In Minnesota, where 13 people were killed in a bridge collapse in 2007, the number of structurally deficient bridges rose from 1,156 in 2007 to 1,206 last year.19
- Pennsylvania has the highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the nation—more than Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Virginia combined. The state’s Transportation Commission recently reported the number will increase in the next four years because of funding shortfalls, reversing progress made in the past three years to fix bridges. In recent years, the state was fixing 500 bridges each year to offset the 300 bridges, on average, that reach the deficient rating each year. Decreased funding, however, will allow the state to repair only an average of 250 spans a year.20
There are a few state success stories:
- Louisiana’s backlog of needed road, highway and bridge repairs decreased from $14 billion in 2006 to $12.5 billion at the end of 2009, largely as a result of the boost in transportation funding from the use of state surplus revenue from 2007 to 2009 and the use of Recovery Act funding.21
- Between 2000 and 2009, Ohio made significant improvements to more than 2,100 bridges, including one out of every 10 of the state’s most trafficked bridges.22
- Missouri’s Department of Transportation reported this year that 86 percent of the state’s major roads are now in good condition, a nearly 40 percent improvement from six years ago when voters approved a constitutional amendment to provide additional funding for road and bridge construction by dedicating certain transportation-related taxes and fees solely for that purpose. The extra money was used to make 2,200 miles of the state’s most heavily traveled roads smoother and safer, accelerate 50 construction projects that are now complete, and undertake 97 new projects that originally were not going to be funded for several years.23
- Georgia’s roads are in the best shape of any state, due primarily to their relatively young age and the state’s relatively light winters. According to the Federal Highway Administration, about 95 percent of Georgia highways are rated “good” and 5 percent “fair.” None are rated “poor” or “mediocre.” 24
State officials could solve many of their infrastructure needs by encouraging Congress to pass a multi-year transportation authorization funded in part by an increase in the federal gasoline tax and by voting to increase gas taxes at the state level.
- The federal gas tax has remained unchanged at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993 and has never been adjusted for inflation. Moreover, when gas prices increase, consumption of gas—and therefore gas tax revenues—decrease. Yet, according to a recent survey, 60 percent of Americans believe the tax is increased annually.25
- While increasing federal and state gas taxes is believed to be politically unpalatable, studies show the damage being done to roads from inadequate maintenance (as a result of declining revenues) is costing drivers more than actually paying a slightly higher tax for gas.26 Moreover, the cost to fix pavement can increase by four to five times when repairs and maintenance are delayed for as little as three years, a New Hampshire Department of Transportation study found.27 According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent in keeping a road in good condition precludes spending $6 to $14 to rebuild a deteriorated road.28
1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “Road Work Ahead: Holding Government Accountable for Fixing America’s Crumbling Roads and Bridges.” April 2010.
2 Federal Highway Administration. “Deficient Bridges by State and Highway System (As of December 2009).”
3 Sen. George Voinovich. “The Road to Jobs.” Politico. August 4, 2010.
4 U.S. Public Interest Research Groups.
5 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Construction Companies Losing Billions Stuck in Gridlock, AGC Report Finds.” AASHTO. June 18, 2010.
6 The Road Information Program (TRIP). “Top 50 Surface Transportation Projects to Stimulate Michigan’s Economic Recovery.” May 2010.
7 Michigan Chamber of Commerce (report prepared by Anderson Economic Group). “Michigan’s Roads: The Cost of Doing Nothing and the Rewards of Bold Action.” May 13, 2010.
8 Pete Nickeas. “Shortfall seen in roads budget.” Casper Star Tribune. April 22, 2010.
9 The Road Information Program. “Future Mobility in Wyoming: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility.” December 2009.
10 The Road Information Program. “The Future of North Carolina’s Transportation System: Preserving and Maintaining North Carolina’s Economic Lifeline to Ensure Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility.” March 2010.
11 The Road Information Program. “Future Mobility in Mississippi: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility.” February 2009.
12 The Road Information Program. “Future Mobility in California: The Condition, Use and Funding of California’s Roads.” December 2009.
13 The Road Information Program. “Future Mobility in New York.” January 2010.
14 The Road Information Program. “Future Mobility in West Virginia: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility.” July 2009.
15 The Road Information Program. “Falling Behind: The Condition and Funding of Maine’s Roads, Highways & Bridges.” October 2009.
16 The Road Information Program. “Moving Into North Dakota’s Future: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility.” April 2009.
17 The Road Information Program. “Moving Kansas Forward: The Condition and Funding of Kansas’ Roads, Highways and Bridges.” September 2009.
18 The Road Information Program. “Future Mobility in Minnesota: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility.” September 2009.
19 “FHWA Has Taken Actions But Could Do More to Strengthen Oversight of Bridge Safety and States’ Use of Federal Bridge Funding: Statement of Joseph W. Come, U.S. Dept. of Transportation Before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.” July 10, 2010.
20 Tom Fontaine. “Bridge trouble to get worse in Pennsylvania.” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. August 13, 2010.
21 The Road Information Program. “Future Mobility in Louisiana: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility.” April 2010.
22 Russ Zimmer. “Ohio focuses on fixing bridges: 2007 collapse in Minnesota put more light on infrastructure.” Zanesville Times Recorder. August 2, 2010.
23 The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Number of Missouri Roads in Good Condition Almost Doubles.” AASHTO Journal. February 5, 2010.
24 Bill Torpy. “State roads, not very old, rate among best in U.S.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. April 28, 2010.
25 Melissa Lafsky. “How Often Is the Gas Tax Raised? Most Americans Have No Clue.” The Infrastructurist. January 21, 2010.
26 Melissa Lafsky. “The Hidden (and Massive) Costs of Letting Our Roads Deteriorate.” The Infrastructurist. July 21, 2010.
27 New Hampshire Department of Transportation. “2011-2020 Ten Year Plan: Pavement Condition and Performance.”
28 The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Rough Roads Ahead: Fix Them Now or Pay for It Later.” 2009.