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Report highlights transportation infrastructure deficit

Report highlights transportation infrastructure deficit

The good news? Thanks to the Obama Administration's unprecedented Recovery Act transportation investments, travel on American roads in good condition rose from 46.4 percent in 2008 to 50.6 percent in 2010. That's the highest two-year jump since we began using that metric.

As Federal Highway Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau said, "The Recovery Act contributed to the improved quality of our highways. It makes a good case for more investment --every dollar produces results for the American people.”

Photo collage of bridges in need of repair, courtesy of Business Week

The other news? We still have a lot of work to do. The same report that showed the increase in good condition roads, "2013 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit: Conditions and Performance," confirms that this nation needs greater investment to maintain and improve our highway and transit systems.

Photo of the report coverThe report estimates that all levels of government--federal, state, and local--would need to spend between $123.7 billion and $145.9 billion per year to improve the condition of roads and bridges. In 2010, all levels spent a combined $100.2 billion on this infrastructure, and that includes the $11.9 billion boost from the Recovery Act.

That leaves a considerable gap. As Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, "We have an infrastructure deficit in this country."

The report also indicates that as much as $24.5 billion is needed per year to maintain and improve the condition of transit rail and bus systems. In 2010, total spending to maintain and expand transit systems was $16.5 billion –again boosted temporarily by the Recovery Act. That's another considerable gap.

In fact, the report finds that the state of good repair and preventive maintenance backlog for transit is at an all-time high of $86 billion--and it's growing by an estimated $2.5 billion annually. To catch up on that backlog over the next two decades, the nation will need an additional $8.2 billion over current spending from all levels of government every year.

As Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan said, “Making a down payment on this substantial backlog is critical to not falling farther behind in our commitment to modernize the transportation infrastructure that tens of millions of riders depend on every day.”

Photo of transit relay installed in 1926 and still not replaced

Why do we need to invest in dependable transportation? Because, as the President said in his State of the Union address, "First-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure."

And because other nations are making the investment that we aren't. As the President said last week in St. Paul, Minnesota:

"Other countries aren't waiting to rebuild their infrastructure.  They’re trying to out-build us today so they can out-compete us tomorrow. As a percentage of GDP, countries like China, Germany, they’re spending about twice what we're spending in order to build infrastructure -- because they know that if they have the fastest trains on the planet or the highest-rated airports or the busiest, most efficient ports that businesses will go there."

The President doesn't think that's acceptable. Transportation Secretary Foxx doesn't think that's acceptable. That’s why when they were in Minnesota last week, the President unveiled a plan to devote $302 billion over four years to improving our nation’s surface transportation.

We need more investment in America's transportation. We need it now. And we at DOT believe the President’s 2015 budget proposal offers a way to make it happen.

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