Fix-It-First Bill Introduced in Senate

Highway maintenance has been getting short shrift in state budgets, according to a recent report from Smart Growth America. But a bill introduced in the Senate today seeks to address the imbalance between road construction and maintenance.

A fix-it-first policy could help prevent another distaster like the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Photo: Fox News

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin’s Preservation and Renewal of Federal-Aid Highways Act would require states to develop targets for road maintenance. It would also give USDOT authority to establish and hold states to standards for “state of good repair” on federal highways.

Smart growth advocates and transportation reformers applauded the announcement today, saying it would help put the country back on a sustainable, fiscally responsible path.

“Roads in many states are falling in to disrepair and these declining conditions cost taxpayers billions of dollars in preventable expenses,” said Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Investing in repair makes good fiscal sense, good safety sense, and good business sense for our country.”

In his statement on the proposal, Cardin emphasized the costs of neglecting road maintenance. He noted that poor road conditions are a “significant factor” in approximately one-third of fatal crashes, adding that poor roads add to the repair and operating costs for motorists to the tune of $67 billion a year, or approximately $333 per driver. Poor road conditions also contribute to 42 percent of America’s urban highway congestion, he said.

“Investing in our nation’s highways and infrastructure has been one the best federal investments we have ever made,” said Cardin, a member of the EPW’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Our nation’s highways are critical to growing our economy, and repairing and maintaining their quality is required to ensure lasting efficiency and safety.”

Last week’s Smart Growth America report found that 57 percent of states’ highway funding is spent on new construction, meaning that a majority of our transportation dollars are being poured into just a fraction — 1.3 percent — of the total system. Meanwhile, roads are decaying fast. About half of the nation’s 1.9 million lane miles were judged to be in “fair” or “poor” condition by the Federal Highway Administration in 2008.

Representatives of Smart Growth America said they will be watching and supporting Senator Cardin’s legislation through the adoption process.