Wednesday, September 1, 1999

Potholes and Politics

How Congress Can Fix Your Roads

View and Download the report here: Potholes and Politics

Urban and suburban high- ways account for less than three percent of road miles in metropolitan areas, yet they carry more than one third of all vehicle miles traveled in our nation’s cities and suburbs. As Congress tackles reauthorization of the nation’s transportation law, the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act (ISTEA), these interstates, free- ways, and expressways — the vital core of the country’s road network — are crumbling. The main reason is that each year state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) divert billions of dollars available for road repair to the construction of new highways, typically on the suburban fringe.

Since the enactment of ISTEA in 1991, money available for highway repair that was instead spent on new highway construction in major metro areas alone could have resurfaced almost 5,000 miles of existing urban highway — repairing every mile of urban highway currently in poor or mediocre condition. Because fixing a highway in poor condition can cost ten times more than routine maintenance of roads in fair or better condition, diverting repair money to new construction further increases long-term road repair costs. It also increases maintenance costs — to the tune of billions of dollars each year — for drivers whose cars are battered by failing roads.

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