Condition of

President Obama this week proposed $50 billion in new infrastructure spending for roads, railways and airport runways and promised to pair it with “a long-term framework to reform and expand our nation’s investment in transportation infrastructure.” While the plan was welcomed by many, others wondered if it was too little, too late and pretty much dead on arrival with just eight weeks to go before the mid-term elections. It was—at the very least—a long-awaited conversation starter that included some not altogether unfamiliar or unexpected ideas.

Yesterday I told you about our new CSG Capitol Facts & Figures brief on the Condition of U.S. Roads and Bridges. Well, if you’re looking for some better news, there’s a new annual study out this month from the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, that gives a somewhat different perspective. The report finds that state highways are in the best shape they have been in nearly 20 years.

Despite billions in Recovery Act dollars spent on infrastructure over the last year and half, the nation still faces an epidemic of crumbling roads and bridges in the years ahead and a shortage of dollars to pay for it all under current funding conditions. That’s the picture that emerges from CSG’s new four-page Capitol Facts & Figures brief entitled “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.

E-newsletter Issue #47 | May 27, 2010


Facing budget cuts and dwindling funds to build roads and bridges, the New York State Department of Transportation was forced to close a bridge in the North Country, one that connects New York and Vermont.  The old bridge in the Adirondacks was no longer safe for travel.

Nationwide marketing campaigns and state efforts to seek public input and build trust in transportation decision making are helping to galvanize support for the infrastructure investment many say America needs.

Despite the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, many states are falling short in providing needed investment in the nation's highways and bridges. But some states in 2009 had success in finding revenue sources to fund them.

This report includes bar charts for six indicators of road and bridge conditions and safety, including percent of roads in fair or good condition; percent of bridges structurally deficient; percent of bridges functionally obsolete; traffic fatalities per 100 million annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT); percent of traffic fatalities involving high blood alcohol concentration; and seat belt usage rates. Data were sought for a number of other outcome indicators, including injury rates, congestion and customer satisfaction. However, too few states were able to provide information on these  indicators.

Fiscal conditions in the states began to decline in fiscal 2008. State spending and revenues grew at a lower rate than the prior year and balances were well-below their near record levels of fiscal 2007. While fiscal 2008 saw somewhat moderate declines, the fiscal situation in the states has deteriorated much more sharply in fiscal 2009. State spending is projected to be negative for the first time since 1983, balance levels are being reduced as states use reserves to address shortfalls, and recent data shows state revenues declining by 4 percent. As a result, states are likely to face a difficult budgetary environment in fiscal 2010 and beyond.

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