Many of the roads, bridges and transit systems we travel on each day were built decades ago, paid for by previous generations. Many facilities have outlasted their original design life and are in dire need of repair, or need to be completely rebuilt. The wear and tear we put on these existing systems is tremendous because we are a very different, more prosperous and mobile country than we were when these facilities were built.
To provide a glimpse of how things have changed, when construction on the Interstate Highway System began in the 1950s, there were 65 million vehicles traveling 600 billion miles annually. Now there are over 240 million vehicles, and they travel more than 3 trillion miles every year.
The American Society of Civil Engineers publishes a “report card” grading the condition of America’s infrastructure. In 2005, the nation’s roads received a “D” grade, bridges a “C” and transit a “D+.” Preliminary findings from their 2009 report show bridges with no change (C), while downgrades occurred for roads (D-) and transit (D). The figures below shed some detail on the needs we face as a nation:
- 33% of America’s urban and rural roads are in poor, mediocre or fair condition, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
- Driving on roads in need of repair costs U.S. motorists $54 billion per year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — $275 per motorist.
- Outdated and substandard road and bridge design, pavement conditions and safety features are factors in 30% of all fatal highway crashes.
- Between 1970 and 2002, passenger travel nearly doubled in the United States. Road use is expected to increase by nearly two-thirds in the next 20 years.
- As of 2003, 27% of the nation’s 160,570 bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.