Report: U.S. addiction to building new roads eating up money needed for maintenance - Curbed

How can more spending mean worse results? Thanks to American transportation policy, it’s a reality painfully understood by millions of drivers, who commute on a deteriorating network of roads right as local and state transit agencies spend increasing sums of money on new highways.

“Repair Priorities 2019,” a report released today by Transportation for America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, found that between 2009 and 2017, the percentage of U.S. roads in “poor condition” increased from 14 to 20 percent, while 37 states saw the percentage of their roads in poor condition increase from 2009 to 2017.

It’s typically assumed that a lack of funding for basic repairs causes this problem. But according to Repair Priorities, its as much about choices than budget shortfalls. States simply neglect basic repair in favor of expanding roadways: In the last two long-term transportation reauthorizations, states were given increased flexibility to spend federal dollars. Despite long-standing complaints about potholes, crumbling roads, and unfixed highways, they spent as much building new roads as repairing new ones, spending $120 billion on expansion from 2009 to 2014.

Not only does the expansion mean starving transit systems of money for more efficient ways of getting around, such as mass transit, but by adding more and more roadways, state spending priorities inevitably lead to more induced demand, and even more roadway maintenance obligations ignored during the next asphalt expansion. Every new lane-mile of road costs approximately $24,000 per year to preserve in a state of good repair, according to the report.

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