U.S. highway investment not meeting system needs

News ARTBA March 27, 2006
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Federal, state and local governments would need to invest approximately $73.8 billion a year between 2003 and 2022 just to keep average highway user costs from rising above 2002 levels, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) 2004 Status of the Nation’s Highways Bridges and Transit: Conditions & Performance report.

The cost to improve the condition of the nation’s highways and bridges, including reducing congestion, vehicle operating costs, crashes, emissions and travel time, would require an estimated annual investment level of $118.9 billion between 2003 and 2022, the report said. By comparison, the U.S. DOT estimates that federal, state and local governments spent $68.2 billion on highway and bridge capital expenditures in 2002.

“If capital spending were to rise to the Cost of Maintain level, the vast majority of this increase, given current sources of highway funding, would likely be borne by the highway users,” the report said. “Note that this ‘gap’ reflects future investment requirements stated in constant dollars; additional annual increases in investment would be required to offset the effects of inflation.”

The Conditions & Performance report found that although the physical conditions of the nation’s infrastructure had improved slightly between 1997 and 2002, operational performance has declined—the quality of use of the nation’s infrastructure “has steadily deteriorated over the past decade.”

The estimated average annual cost to maintain transit asset conditions and operation performance is approximately $15.5 billion, an amount that is 26.8% more than 2002 capital spending levels. The average cost to improve annual investment level would be $24 billion.

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