In a fight to stop expansion, a narrow-minded approach

Special interest group claims DOTs are paying more attention to highway capacity than highway maintenance

March 18, 2014

The DOTs are neglecting neglected roads.

According to a recent survey by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, which looked at road conditions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2009 and 2011, states spent $20.4 billion each year on road expansion compared to $16.5 billion on road repair. In addition, the report found from 2008 and 2011 the amount of roads in good condition decreased from 41% to 37%, while the number in poor condition increased from 17% to 21%.

So I get it. An outfit that carries “Smart Growth” in its name is against any hint of expansion and would much rather have DOTs focus on the existing system. However, public officials are getting hit from both sides here. Yes, roads and bridges continue to crumble at an alarming rate, but at the same time traffic congestion is thickening. Budgets these days cannot go both ways. There is simply not enough dollars to cure all the infrastructure ills, and there are times when those in charge are faced with a difficult decision—do I expand this route and cut travel times (and cost to the taxpayer), or do I repair this route and make it a more enjoyable ride, and in turn a less expensive one for the average motorist?

Expansion projects also cost far more than repair projects—in some cases three times as much. I am willing to bet the actual number of maintenance jobs exceed the number of expansion projects, but a group with “Smart Growth” in its name simply would not be serving its clientele if it made that point. A group with “Smart Growth” in its name is going to push for alternative forms of transportation, and will flat out oppose anything linked to expansion.

But I get it—I get the e-mail claiming this all as news. To me, it’s all propaganda, yet there are some who think it’s worth telling, and reading about. So I posted it on our news site, just so I would not be accused of neglecting those who might feel neglected.

Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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