Report: States need to invest more in repairing roads

New highways just aren't being built these days. The precious few dollars that are to be found in transportation budgets for roads are going to preserving the highway system we already have - but it seems we can't even keep up with that. A new report by Smart Growth America has found the decades of underinvestment in regular repair has left many states' roads in poor condition. Of course, we didn't need a report to tell us that, but it's nice to have what we know to be true backed up by an official report. The report, Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads found that between 2004 and 2008 states spent 43% of total road construction and preservation funds on repair of existing roads, while the remaining 57% of funds went to new construction. That means 57% of these funds was spent on only 1% of the nation’s roads, while only 43% was dedicated to preserving the 99% of the system that already existed. "Spending too little on repair and allowing roads to fall apart exposes states and the federal government to huge financial liabilities," said Roger Millar of Smart Growth America. "Our findings show that in order to bring their roads into good condition and maintain them that way, states would collectively have to spend $43 billion every year for the next 20 years – more than they currently spend on all repair, preservation and new capacity combined. As this figure illustrates, state have drifted too far from regular preservation and repair and in so doing have created a deficit that is going to take decades to reverse." According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6-$14 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly. As we patiently wait for a new highway bill, let's hope our fearless leaders in Washington recognize the value of having enough money to just keep our roads in working condition.