- Despite deteriorating conditions on existing roads, states have spent nearly as much on building new lanes than on road repair, according to a report from Transportation for America and Taxpayers for Common Sense. Between 2009 and 2014, states spent $21.4 billion on average on road repair each year, compared to $21.3 billion for road expansion.
- The percentage of roads rated in "poor condition" rose from 14% in 2009 to 20% in 2017. In that time, 37 states saw the percentage of "poor" roads increase. Maintaining the more than 223,000 lane-miles built between 2009-2017 would cost $5 billion per year. Expanding roads borrows against the future, the groups say in the report.
- "Lawmakers and officials like a good ribbon cutting at a new road, but repair is too often treated like flossing teeth: A tedious, sometimes painful extra step that’s all too easily skipped. Except that it's critical and saves taxpayers cash and pain down the road," Steve Ellis, executive vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said in a statement.
The state of disrepair in the nation's infrastructure has long been a funding problem.
The national failure to raise the gas tax or peg it to inflation has meant that the Highway Trust Fund is set to run dry by 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Although there has been discussion of an infrastructure package, no serious legislation has materialized and it appears unlikely that Congress would raise the gas tax or approve a vehicle-miles-traveled tax to refill the trust fund.
The report, "Repair Priorities 2019," argues that it is government choices that have left infrastructure in its current state. The last two federal transportation spending bills gave states more flexibility on how to spend money, and some built new roads rather than the unsexy task of repair.
Some states have raised gas taxes, and Alabama, Ohio and Michigan are considering increases this year. But more funding may not solve the problem; the report calls on Congress to structure its next transportation bill around "clear, quantifiable outcomes," including repairing all roads in poor condition. The report also recommends that Congress require that states spend money on repair before any new construction.
Given the significant mobility changes in cities that provide options outside of driving — to say nothing of the driving changes set to arrive with the launch of autonomous vehicles (AVs) — it may also serve states well to consider the utility of new road capacity if money could be spent elsewhere.