The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 12:29cat

U.S. DOT Warns of Need For Spending on Bridges and Roads

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A highway is seen in Palm Springs, California December 20, 2013 A highway is seen in Palm Springs, California December 20, 2013 REUTERS/ERIC THAYER

The United States Department of Transportation released its biennial conditions and performance report last Friday. The report stated that all levels of the country’s government must spend between $123.7 billion and $145.9 billion per year to maintain and improve the conditions of the United State’s roads and bridges. The report analyzed data from 2010 and found that the U.S. spent roughly $100 billion on infrastructure that year including $12 billion provided by the stimulus package to help the economy during the recession. The U.S. DOT strongly encourages spending increases to avoid any further deterioration to the country’s roads and bridges.

U.S. President Barack Obama recently announced a four-year, $302 billion plan to reform the country’s infrastructure. The proposal’s reliance on tax reform is not expected to gain support on Capitol Hill. While the government tries to figure out an appropriate infrastructure budget, over $86 billion of preventative maintenance projects sit backlogged. This amount increases by $2 billion each year. In addition, as of 2010 over two-thirds of the country’s bridges were 26 years old or older, 11.5 percent were structurally deficient, and 12.8 percent were functionally obsolete. Roads and bridges are not the only areas that are crumbling. The report indicates that $16.5 billion was spent on rail and buses in 2010, which is $8 billion lower than needed. The U.S. DOT report is in agreement with last year’s American Society of Civil Engineers annual report card. ASCE gave the U.S. infrastructure an overall D grade.

The U.S. DOT report, however, did not contain only bad news. It did state that the country’s bridge conditions improved between 2000 and 2010. It also found that highway building costs have gotten cheaper. Spending in 2010 did exceed the yearly amount needed to just maintain road and bridge conditions. However, according to ASCE senior managing director Casey Dinges, “Just [doing] the status quo is not going to work.” Instead, spending levels must increase and fall in the range required to improve roads and reduce the amount of structurally deficient bridges. Improving highway, bridge, and transit conditions will benefit many industries and have a positive effect on the U.S. economy. Republicans and Democrats are expected to introduce infrastructure spending plans this week. These plans must also address the Highway Trust Fund’s threat of insolvency by August.

Sources: Wall Street JournalReuters

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