Structural deficiencies are costing drivers time and money.
- Roughly 40% of the more than 614,000 bridges in the US are 50 or more years old
- Almost 10% of America’s bridges are “structurally deficient,” meaning that they require extensive repairs or even full replacement in order to accommodate their traffic volumes
- In 2015, driving on roads in need of repair cost US motorists $120.5 billion in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs
The US has many political issues to address in the midst of a bitterly divided political and civic landscape. Right now, one of the most pressing is the state of our bridges and roads.
There are more than 614,000 bridges in the country, of which 40% are 50 or more years old. Additionally, The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 infrastructure report card noted that almost 10 percent of America’s bridges are “structurally deficient,” meaning that they require extensive repairs or even full replacement in order to accommodate the current amount of traffic.
In regard to roads, TRIP — a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that focuses on surface transportation issues — in 2015 reported poor pavement conditions on 21% of the nation’s highways. That year, driving on roads in need of repair cost US motorists $120.5 billion in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs, or $533 per driver.
It is estimated that, if we began today, it would take three decades to complete the repairs and retrofits for all of our bridges alone. Without them, local governments will have to continually reduce weight and speed limits, thus increasing delays due to congestion and unnecessary expenses.
“It is estimated that, if we began today, it would take three decades to complete the repairs and retrofits for all of our bridges alone.” – Megan Ray Nichols
What We Can Do
Raising the public’s consciousness about the scope of the problem, and the extent to which their personal convenience and livelihoods stand to be improved through infrastructure spending, must be priority number one.
Officials at all levels of government are increasingly exploring at the possibility of entering into public-private partnerships in order to advance infrastructure development. To be sure, the root of President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan lies in using $200 billion in federal funding to leverage private financing for infrastructure projects across the country.
The private sector has the tools, personnel and experience to get the work done, including the powerful equipment required to complete ongoing inspections of our bridges. But a lack of public oversight could lead to higher costs for those who use them.
Obama-era measures regulating the compensation and treatment of federal contractors may provide a means to keep usage fees manageable. Moreover, an arrangement between the public and private sectors which allows for access to private sector investment while still allowing the public sector to operate and maintain the asset could also be a means for addressing current and future infrastructure needs.
The question of who is going to pay for the nation’s roads and bridges could be answered by sharing the burden. We need more public oversight of our infrastructure, not less. We need more income and corporate tax brackets, not fewer. Infrastructure is a shared problem, and we all need to share in the solution.