Since the launch of the U.S. Highway System in 1926, paved roads and bridges have become one of the most important parts of our country’s infrastructure. After all, cars and trucks are our primary source of national transportation, whether we’re moving freight or people. Roads and bridges are what make this possible.
As we head into a season where road construction seems to be everywhere, it’s easy to assume our country’s infrastructure is being well taken care of. Yet, poor road conditions and unsafe bridges still seem so prominent.
So where exactly does the U.S. infrastructure currently stand?
The State of Roads
Drive near any large city, even if you’re not close enough to see the skyline, and you’ll likely run into some serious congestion. This has been the case since at least the 70’s, and even as overpasses and additional lanes are added, the problem never seems to be fixed.
Perhaps a road design can only be so efficient. Or maybe the U.S. needs to radically change how our roads are set up. The amount of traffic on the highways is very different than it was 40-50 years ago, and yet, do our road systems look drastically different than they did then?
On the WEF’s most recent Global Economic Competitiveness rankings, the US currently ranks 16th the world for road conditions. While that’s not a bad ranking, when we factor in how critical our road system is to our day-to-day lives and economy, it leaves some room for improvement.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 32% of America’s roads are in poor condition, needing serious repairs.
Yet recent reports show that cities and states are spending less on their roads and infrastructure.
The U.S.’s perception of bridge conditions was drastically changed in the summer of 2007 when the 35W bridge in Minneapolis, MN suddenly collapsed, resulting in the deaths of 13 people. A state of emergency was declared.
Reconstruction of the bridge happened rapidly, with the new bridge opening just over one year later. After the tragedy, much was talked about the current bridge conditions in America, with different plans being put in place on how to amend the issue.
Nearly 8 years later, however, nearly 70,000 bridges in America are considered structurally deficient. This means these bridges should either be dramatically repaired or replaced altogether.
Of course, repairing bridges, much like repairing roads, cost significant resources. Even more specifically, money.
Fixing the Issue
Though there’s no general consensus on the best way to fix the issue, there are many plans out there to fund turning the tide on the current state of America’s roads and bridges.
Ultimately, it will probably have to come from raising taxes, the most obvious of which would be gas taxes. But gas expense is something nearly everyone gets anxious about.
A recent proposition shows an alternative idea. The Obama administration has proposed a bill that would place a 14% tax on the $2+ trillion dollars held overseas by American corporations. In exchange for the tax, these companies would then be allowed to bring the funds to America holdings.
There is also a push by some legislators that a larger share of the burden should be pushed back to the individual states. In the last few years 12 states have passed legislation for transportation funding and 20 more states are considering transportation funding options.
While we can’t seem to agree on the right way to pay for our infrastructure, we can all agree that we need to see a drastic push towards better, safer bridges and roads.
That would be a win for all drivers.