A new report on the state of America's transportation infrastructure, “2013 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Performance,” confirms that more investment is needed to maintain and improve the nation's highway and transit systems. Earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx highlighted the need for transportation investment in a speech that took aim at America's infrastructure deficit and identified ways to use innovation and improved planning to stretch transportation dollars as effectively and efficiently as possible.
"We have an infrastructure deficit in this country, and we need to create more jobs: Improving our roads, bridges and transit systems will provide help on both fronts," Foxx said. "As the president said in his State of the Union address last week, first-class infrastructure creates first-class jobs. This report shows the difference we made thanks to the administration's unprecedented investment under the Recovery Act, but it's also clear that much more remains to be done."
The U.S. DOT's Conditions and Performance report, based on 2010 data, estimates all levels of government would need to spend between $123.7 billion and $145.9 billion per year to maintain and improve the condition of roads and bridges alone. In 2010, federal, state and local governments combined spent $100.2 billion on this infrastructure, including $11.9 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars.
The report also indicates that as much as $24.5 billion is needed per year to improve the condition of transit rail and bus systems. In 2010, total spending to maintain and expand transit systems was $16.5 billion—a spending level also boosted temporarily by Recovery Act dollars.
"The Recovery Act contributed to the improved quality of our highways," Federal Highway Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau said. "It makes a good case for more investment—every dollar produces results for the American people."
According to the report, travel on pavements with good ride quality rose from 46.4% in 2008 to 50.6% in 2010. A major factor in this increase was the one-time funding provided under the Recovery Act, a large share of which was directed toward pavement resurfacing. This 4.2% increase represents the highest two-year jump ever since the metric was first used in 1995. While the report shows overall pavement and bridge conditions have improved in many areas, the improvements have not been uniform across the system.
The report also finds that the nation's state of good repair and preventive maintenance backlog for transit is at an all-time high of $86 billion and that it is growing by an estimated $2.5 billion each year. An additional $8.2 billion over current spending levels from all levels of government is needed annually to spend down the current backlog over the next 20 years. While some transit systems are still operating rail cars that are more than 30 years old, the report finds that more than three-quarters of the need for repairs affects other facets of our transit systems, such as rail stations, trestles and power substations. Meanwhile, state and local governments are shouldering more than half the cost of annual investments to preserve and grow the nation's transit systems.
"The United States cannot grow and compete in the 21st century without a modern public transportation infrastructure that connects citizens, their communities and their employers with opportunities to succeed and prosper," said Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan. "Making a down payment on this substantial backlog is critical to not falling farther behind in our commitment to modernize the transportation infrastructure that tens of millions of riders depend on every day."
The investment estimates for roads and bridges are based on ranges, which is new to the 2013 report. The higher ends are based on state-provided forecasts, which were used in past reports—they average out to annual growth of 1.85% per year. The lower ends presume vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) will grow at an average annual rate of 1.36% per year, which is consistent with the average annual growth in the past 15 years.
Conditions and Performance is a biennial report to Congress that provides information on the physical and operating characteristics of the highway, bridge and transit components of the nation's surface transportation system.