Spending of state DOTs places priority on new road construction over repairs

Updated Mar 26, 2014

Road Work signState departments of transportation spend more each year on new road construction than on road repairs, according to a new report from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The report, “Repair Priorities 2014,” notes that between 2009 and 2011, state DOTs collectively spent $20.4 billion on new roads, growing the nation’s state-owned network by 8,822 lane-miles of road. New roads made up less than 1 percent of total roads in 2011, according to the report.

Meanwhile, states spent $16.5 billion on road repair and preservation projects, which accounted for 99 percent of all roads in 2011. The report also shows that, on a scale of good, fair and poor, 21 percent of U.S. roads were in poor condition in 2011, while only 37 percent were in good condition.

Additionally, the cost of repairing roads went up between 2008 and 2011, according to the report. In 2008, it would have cost state DOTs $43 billion every year for 20 years to improve roads in poor condition to good condition while also maintaining existing highways. By 2011, that number was up to $45.2 billion, which the report notes is nearly triple what states currently spend on road repairs.

The report also points out that with proper spending, the backlog of roads in poor condition could have been nearly eliminated this year. If states had spent $20.4 billion annually on repairs rather than new construction, the number of roads in poor condition could have been cut in half by 2011 and potentially eliminated by 2014.

In addition to providing spending figures, the report offers suggestions for improving the amount of funding that goes to state road repairs. The report recommends state officials raise the public profile of repair projects, use assessment management practices, focus repair investments on the roads used most, settle aggressive targets for pavement conditions and use cost-benefit analysis to prioritize investments.

The report also offers suggestions for federal action, including an option to tie available federal funding to road condition. For a downloadable copy of the report, click here.


Editor’s Note: Amanda Bayhi is the online managing editor for sister site Better Roads.

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