Those who live in America have probably made their fair share of comments about how dilapidated the roads and bridges get, especially after particularly harsh winters.
Recently, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association released a study showing that 55,710 bridges across the U.S. are considered structurally deficient. Approximately 1,900 of these bridges are part of the Interstate Highway System. 25 states have 9% or more structurally-deficient bridges. In 2013, the Federal highway program’s $30.1 billion budget barely exceeded the $25 billion per year contributions to the national GDP made by the auto recycling industry. That budget is simply not enough to take care of 4.12 million miles of American roads and thousands of bridges.
American Road & Transportation Builders Association
According to the chief economist for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, Alison Black, it will take more than two decades to repair all of the bridges listed as being in need in the association’s study. Black insists that America must adopt a more modernized highway system in order to propel economic expansion.
Currently, state and local governments finance the majority of highway improvements while the federal government only finances about 45% or less. Funding for highway improvement by the federal government in the fiscal year of 2014 was $40.9 billion, which is about $9 billion less than what it ideally should be in order to make necessary repairs and alterations.
Motorists in the great Motor City of Detroit, Michigan, are, like many across the United States, feeling the impact of dilapidated roads early this year. While the winter season has been short, it has taken its toll on the roads, which have been needing further (and more permanent) repairs for a long time. Motorists who hit potholes end up spending extra money on cracked rims, flat tires, and damage to undercarriages if they end up bottoming out. While patching crews are already out there doing their best to prevent drivers from damaging their cars on potholes, more potholes are expected to develop as the weather continues to warm up.
So why are bridges going without repairs and roads continuously just getting patches, which are basically just like slapping bandages over wounds? In addition to potential issues with late-season paving in colder climates and the usage of lesser quality materials meant to give a temporary fix, truck weight limits, harsh freeze-and-thaw conditions, and less than ideal soil conditions contribute to bad road conditions, especially in states like Michigan. Major issues with under-funding are the ultimate reason why roads and bridges, like those in Michigan, become dilapidated.
Commuters are left to wonder, “What can be done to improve road and bridge conditions in the United States?” The answer is not yet clear. Government officials in states like Michigan have suggested and even implemented taxes in order to garner money for road repairs. On July 1, 2015, Michigan’s state senators passed legislation that spiked fuel taxes by 15 cents per gallon, half of which was to be set aside for more long-term, higher quality roads and road repairs that could last about 50 years.
State roads are generally built to last about 20 years, but due to a severe lack of funding coupled with undesirable climate conditions, truck weights and traffic quantity, and quality of materials used, roads just are not holding up. While many American citizens claim that this should not be as heavy of a burden on taxpayers as it has become in some states, allocating funds for major repairs on roads and bridges is extremely problematic. Still, some remain hopeful that President Donald Trump will hold true to his campaign promise to find a fiscally responsible way to fix America’s infrastructural decay, including roads and bridges. It is uncertain what the projects to improve infrastructure will involve or where the money will come from, and taxpayers are certainly hoping it will not come out of their paychecks.
Building roads that cost more upfront but are made of better quality materials could lead to less spending in the long-run on constant repairs. Whatever the solution will be, there is no doubt that America’s dilapidated roads and bridges, while still being mostly safe to travel upon, are in need of some attention.