$163bn needed annually to fix America’s “crumbling” transport system

America must up its spend on surface transportation by a whopping 63% for each of the next six years to meet current demand and to clear the maintenance backlog, a hard-hitting report has warned.

Now, just over $100bn is spent very year on roads, bridges and public transit, but that figure needs to be $163bn if "crumbling" infrastructure is to work, say the country’s own transport officials.

As the demand for public transportation increases, our systems are strained and in dire need of strong investment– Michael Melaniphy, APTA president and CEO

The report found that approximately 64,000 structurally deficient bridges are still operating across the country, despite a major infrastructure spending campaign between 1994 to 2013.

And the Federal Transit Administration estimates that the current backlog for keeping infrastructure in a state of "good repair" stands at $87.7bn.

To meet current demand, annual capital investments of $120bn in the nation’s highway and bridge network and $43bn in public transportation infrastructure are needed over six years, finds the "2015 Bottom Line Report", released yesterday by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Now, however, only $83bn is invested now in roads and bridges, while just $17.1bn is invested in public transit.

"As the demand for public transportation increases, our systems are strained and in dire need of strong investment," said APTA president and CEO Michael Melaniphy. "After years of a lack of robust investment, the public transit infrastructure that our communities and businesses rely on to grow and prosper is crumbling. Investment in public transit is a key ingredient to driving growth in our communities, attracting development and causing increased property values along its corridors." 

AASHTO executive director Bud Wright said that spending more "could target the backlog of repair and rehabilitation projects across the country. Workers would benefit – as would the entire US economy."

"There is little disagreement about the value of transportation," said Wright. "The business community, trade unions, commercial truck drivers and numerous associations including AASHTO and APTA support greater investment. The key is reaching consensus on Capitol Hill. We hope this report will help decision-makers better understand what’s at stake in deciding on a long-term, sustainable stream of revenue to support transportation infrastructure."

Melaniphy said he hoped the report would influence federal policy makers as they consider transport legislation in 2015.

Increasing demand

The report found that freight ton miles are expected to grow 72% percent from 2015 to 2040, putting ever more big-rig trucks on highways.

In 2014, America was returning to the level of 3 trillion miles of travel for the first time since the recession began in 2008 – a rebound in travel miles spurred by falling gasoline prices and increased employment.

Public transportation ridership reached 10.7bn trips in 2013, the highest in 57 years, the report found. It predicts 2.4% annual growth in public transit passenger miles of travel.

Download the report here.

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