March 2013

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Page 35 of 67

U.S. Keeps Building New Highways Infrastructure While Letting Old Ones Crumble Funding to properly maintain roads and bridges is but one slice of the bigger, national funding conundrum. By Curtis Tate and Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers Oil-rich Texas has built more highways and bridges than any other state, but over the next two decades it will fall $170 billion short of what it needs to keep the sprawling network in good repair. In California, transportation officials estimate that 60 percent of the state's roads and a quarter of its bridges need to be repaired or replaced, at a projected cost of $70 billion over a decade, some $52 billion more than the available funds. North Carolina anticipates that it will fall short of keeping its highways in current condition by $22 billion over the next 30 years, and would need more than twice that amount to improve them. America's highway system, once a symbol of freedom and mobility envied the world over, is crumbling physically and financially, the potentially disastrous consequence of a politically driven road-building binge. President Barack Obama, state transportation officials, civil engineers, road builders and business groups all say that the country needs to invest trillions of dollars in its infrastructure, yet there's little consensus on how to finance it or what the most pressing needs are. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the country needs $14 billion in additional federal funds each year just to maintain highways and $50 billion more to improve them. There's no single cause of the financial squeeze, and federal data reveal only part of it. Some states have raised their own gasoline taxes to pay for highway construction and maintenance and to depend less on federal funding. Others haven't changed their gas taxes in years and rely on federal money to make up for it. But federal government analysts, taxpayer advocates and transportation experts have warned for at least a decade that many states were spending too much on building highways and too little on fixing them, and that their maintenance costs would skyrocket if they didn't change course. "We've engaged in a dangerous game of deferred maintenance," said Brian Taylor, a professor of urban planning and the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Five years after an interstate highway bridge collapsed in Minnesota, killing 13 people and injuring 145, the (continued on page 36) 34 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | March 2013 34_Highway_Feature_KP.indd 34 2/27/13 4:03 PM

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