Iowa DOT Chief Says Overbuilt Road System Will Have to Shrink

Here’s something you don’t see every day. Or ever.

Charles Marohn at Strong Towns reports that the director of the Iowa DOT, Paul Trombino, said his state’s transportation system is overbuilt and unsustainable. Trombino said Iowans will have to decide what to maintain and what they are willing to let go.

State DOT director Paul Trombino says Iowa has excess and unsustainable road capacity. Photo: Streets.mn
State DOT director Paul Trombino says Iowa has excess and unsustainable road capacity. Photo: Streets.mn

Marohn quotes from Trombino’s remarks:

I said the numbers before. 114,000 lane miles, 25,000 bridges, 4,000 miles of rail. I said this a lot in my conversation when we were talking about fuel tax increases. It’s not affordable. Nobody’s going to pay.

We are. We’re the ones. Look in the mirror. We’re not going to pay to rebuild that entire system.

And my personal belief is that the entire system is unneeded. And so the reality is, the system is going to shrink.

There’s nothing I have to do. Bridges close themselves. Roads deteriorate and go away. That’s what happens.

And reality is, for us, let’s not let the system degrade and then we’re left with sorta whatever’s left. Let’s try to make a conscious choice — it’s not going to be perfect, I would agree it’s going to be complex and messy — but let’s figure out which ones we really want to keep.

And quite honestly, it’s not everything that we have, which means some changes.

“This is a big deal,” says Marohn. “Most DOT directors understand that we’ve overbuilt, that there will never be the money to maintain everything they are asked to maintain. I’ve not heard another DOT chief admit this problem publicly. They need to.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Streets.mn examines how sprawl development cheapens land values, Mobilizing the Region reports on positive signs for transportation policy in Connecticut, and Biking Toronto celebrates news of a pending bike-share expansion.

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