ARTBA thinks new report is "deficient"

News July 07, 2000
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Maintaining current physical conditions and levels of safety and traffic flow on the nation's highway network will cost an additional $26 billion per year over the next decade, a new analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) data shows.
On June 1, the U.S. DOT released its biennial report, 1999 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Performance, to Congress on U.S. highway conditions, performance and investment requirements. The report said 20% of the nation's highway pavement is in "mediocre" or "poor" condition, almost 30% of the nation's bridges are "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete" and that traffic congestion across the nation is getting worse.
The report focused media and policymaker attention on the assertion that by 2003, the gap between what government at all levels is investing annually in road improvements and what actually is needed over the next 20 years to maintain current pavement and bridge conditions will be almost closed.
An American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis of the 309-page report, however, found the agency's conclusion is predicated on an assumption that U.S. motor vehicle traffic growth will significantly decrease over the next 20 years.
Dr. William R. Buechneer, ARTBA vice president of economics and research, believes current trends suggest there will be 246 million motor vehicles on America's highways by 2009-a 14% increase over 10 years. He also projects highway travel will increase 40% above the current level by 2015.
Buechner says a "more realistic" cost estimate for maintaining current highway and bridge physical conditions is buried in the U.S. DOT document. By projecting the growth of traffic to increase annually at the same average rate it has risen over the past 20 years, the U.S. DOT found the cost to maintain physical conditions would jump $9 billion annually over anticipated investment.
Federal data also reveals that over the past 30 years, U.S. population has increased 30%, the number of licensed vehicles has increased 87% and vehicle miles traveled have increased 130%. U.S. DOT figures show, however, that highway capacity nationwide has only been increased 5% since 1970.

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