Points To Consider
It is an uncontested fact that much of the United States’ infrastructure is wearing out and in vital need of repair. From bridges and highways to shipping docks and tunnels, our infrastructure is aging and has been neglected for many years.
When we examine conventional transportation, primarily cars and trucks, we see that they are vulnerable to landslides (along California’s coast, for example), ubiquitous potholes, toll roads, competition for parking, and even bridge failures (the bridge over the Mississippi comes instantly to mind).
How much money would it take to repair or rebuild roadways?
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) produced a 2017 “report card” reviewing various categories of infrastructure. Regarding highway transportation it writes, “The U.S. has been underfunding its highway system for years, resulting in a $836 billion backlog of highway and bridge capital needs. The bulk of the backlog ($420 billion) is in repairing existing highways, while $123 billion is needed for bridge repair, $167 billion for system expansion, and $126 for system enhancement (which includes safety enhancements, operational improvements, and environmental projects).” (Online at the ASCE website)
A more “modest” estimate comes from the organization Smart Growth America three years ago. It claims, “$45.2 billion: 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.” It also contends that, “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.” (“New Report Examines the Fiscal Implications of Chronic Underinvestment in Road Repair,” Smart Growth America, March 12, 2014).
Yet other analyses (highlighted below) come from the Federal Highway Administration via The American Roads and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) website:
“How Much Will It Cost to Improve the Condition and Performance of Our Nation’s Surface Transportation Systems?
According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2013 “Report to Congress on the Conditions and Performance of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges and Transit,”—the most recent report— all levels of government should be investing $95.6 billion in highway improvements during 2014 just to maintain current physical and performance conditions on the nation’s highways and bridges. This would grow to $109 billion by 2020 if highway construction costs grow at the same rate as the overall inflation rate. The cost to improve our nation’s highways by making all investments with a positive benefit-cost ratio would be $161.7 billion in FY 2014, growing to $184.2 billion by FY 2020.
Traditionally, the federal highway program has financed fewer than 45 percent of all highway improvements while state and local governments have financed the rest. This means Congress should be providing $49.4 billion for the federal highway program in FY 2014 to just to maintain current highway conditions plus administrative and research costs. Actual funding for the federal highway program in FY 2014 under MAP-21 will be $40.9 billion, or about $9 billion less than the federal share needed to maintain current conditions. The federal share of the cost to improve highways would be $83.6 billion in FY 2014, or double the current investment.
The current level of federal investment in the transit formula programs, just under $8.5 billion in FY 2014, comes much closer to the $8.8 billion federal share of investment needed to bring current transit systems and equipment to a state of good repair according to the 2013 Conditions and Performance Report. To achieve a state of good repair and accommodate the projected increase in transit ridership would require a FY 2014 federal investment of $10.48 billion. The report, however, does not try to estimate needed investment in new transit systems, for which the federal government will provide $1.9 billion in FY 2014.
In addition to the regular annual investment in highways and transit, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided a one-time injection of $27.5 billion of federal funds for quick-start highway improvements to help stimulate the economy and $8.4 billion for transit. These investments helped address the shortfall in highway and transit investment but much more is still needed. (Source: ARTBA analysis of 2013 Conditions and Performance Report).
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Mile of Road?
There is no single answer to this question. Construction costs per mile of road depend on location, terrain, type of construction, number of lanes, lane width, durability, number of bridges, etc. It costs more to build a new road than to rehabilitate a road or add lanes. Roads cost more to build in urban areas than in rural areas. Roads in mountainous terrain are more expensive to build than roads on flat land.
Nonetheless, some states have developed cost models to guide planning for their highway construction programs. These models give a ballpark figure for various kinds of highway improvements. The following are some examples:
• Construct a new 2-lane undivided road – about $2 million to $3 million per mile in rural areas, about $3 million to $5 million in urban areas.
• Construct a new 4-lane highway — $4 million to $6 million per mile in rural and suburban areas, $8 million to $10 million per mile in urban areas.
• Construct a new 6-lane Interstate highway – about $7 million per mile in rural areas, $11 million or more per mile in urban areas.
• Mill and resurface a 4-lane road – about $1.25 million per mile.
• Expand an Interstate Highway from four lanes to six lanes – about $4 million per mile.The Florida Department of Transportation has published its generic cost per mile information for 2013 online. The Arkansas Highway Department’s estimated cost per mile for 2013 is available online.
Much Does the Federal Government Invest in Transportation Improvements Each Year?
The FAST Act provides a total of $42.4 billion for highway and bridge improvements in FY 2016 (the fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016) and grows this amount to $46.4 billion by FY 2020… Most federal highway investment is used to upgrade and maintain the nation’s core highways, including the Interstate Highway System, and to repair and replace deficient bridges.”
Article at right is from MICA.org (Minnesota Inter-County Association))
What are your thoughts on the association’s transportation recommendations? Add them to comments box at bottom of page.