By on February 13, 2013

The U.S. transportation system is in danger of falling apart, and will take down the economy with it, Bill Shuster, chairman of the House of Representatives Transportation Committee, said today while Reuters was keeping notes:

“If we don’t deal with this issue at some point, as I said, we will reach a tipping point and the transportation system may not recover and we will fall behind the rest of the world.”

According to Shuster, the U.S. transportation system has already “gone from being one of the top three, four (or) five systems in the world to now we’re 23 or 24, so we need to act.”

A recent study from the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated the United States needs to spend $2.75 trillion to maintain and improve its infrastructure by 2020.

The ASCE gave America’s roads a D-

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147 Comments on “Rotten Roads Ahead: U.S. Infrastructure Is Falling Apart...”


  • avatar
    Dynasty

    Finally!

    Now if we could get mandatory inclusions in all car reviews on this site on vehicle ride quality, the world would be a better place.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      I think that would be too subjective. One man’s “firm” ride might be “soft” as far as someone else’s judgment is concerned. For example, Consumer Reports liked the ride of the last-gen Lexus ES while I think its ride is coarse.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Perhaps. But most people whether or not they prefer a firm ride to a plush ride know the difference between how a Mazda 3 rides down a bumpy street vs a Lincoln Town Car.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        True. After a go-kart race, my Miata with too-stiff aftermarket springs feels like a Camry, numb and soft!

      • 0 avatar
        ZekeToronto

        I recently discovered that Autocar India (a TV program) has a YouTube channel. They’ve got tons of road test reviews online, covering everything from Chinese motorcycles to Lamborghinis. And it’s all in English (they’re owned by Bloomberg). Because of the focus on the Indian market and its horrid roads, a huge portion of each review is spent dissecting the ride quality of every vehicle. In comparison tests, models often win or lose on that criteria.

        Although it’s subjective, I generally agree with their opinions (regarding car models that I’ve experienced). It’s also good for a few laughs, since they seem to assume that the owner of anything larger than an 800cc Maruti-Suzuki will primarily experience the car from the back seat :-)

        http://www.youtube.com/user/autocarindia1

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Brazil + Falcon 400 = good practice.

    Almost ready :)

    In the US I think I’d go for a KLR650 (diesel please)….

    • 0 avatar
      Autobraz

      One of the most important jobs of Brazilian engineering operations of automakers is the reinforcement of suspension and other items affected by poor road conditions.

      So, if the situation gets worse in the US, move a few 3rd world engineers around and problem solved for the next model year!

      • 0 avatar

        You know as well as I do that it’s not only toughening up that they do. Case in point is the Fiat Freemont (Dodge Journey) which has a better ride now thanks to the work of Fiat do BRasil. Maybe that’s the problem with the HB20, they still don’t have enough people here to adapt the car to our conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      First Gen KLR 650…Too much plastic to break off of the new ones when it hits the ground.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Wonder if the roads of Detroit are possibly worse than when I left in 2002? (Chunks of concrete fell out of a few of the major overpasses during the 2001-2002 winter.)

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      No, went to Detroit in 2007. They were dreadful.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I went to college at GMI (now Kettering) in Flint 1984-6. The roads were beyond bad. Screws would literally loosen up and fall out from interior and dash trim on a drive. From my Google street-view tours that were taken over the past few years, the roads in the part of town I frequented are far better now than they were back then, which really surprised me.

    • 0 avatar
      supremebrougham

      A lot of the freeways have been improved, it’s the surface streets that still leave something to be desired.

      That winter you speak of; I had a friend that was driving up I-275 near M-14 about that time and a LARGE chunk of overpass fell down and landed on her Ford Escort, causing her to lose control and roll the car into the ditch! Thankfully she was not badly hurt, but the state of Michigan basically told her too bad so sad, you can’t sue us, and she got nothing out of the deal.

      I love Michigan, and am glad to live here, but that still seriously bugs me…

  • avatar
    sirwired

    While I don’t disagree that our roads are in serious need of intensive maintenance and upgrades, we’re going to need a better source of information other than the American Society of Civil Engineers, who, as great beneficiaries of transportation spending, can hardly be expected to be impartial.

    Also, Mr. Chairman of the House Transportation Services Committee is going to need to propose a way to pay for it. Infrastructure money does not appear out of thin air. Most countries pay for transportation by heavily taxing fuel, but that is anathema to most elected officials in the U.S.

    Not to mention that big-rigs, which are responsible for most of the wear on the highways, do not consume fuel in proportion to the wear they put on the road. (A car carrier doesn’t consume nearly as much fuel as all of those cars driving down the road would, while at the same time causing far more damage to the road structure.)

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      In addition to that, US interstate highways are thinner than German autobahnen, for example. Using less concrete makes it cheaper to build the interstates, but increases their need for maintenance.

      In many cases, this does save money for the state and federal governments because they don’t bother with the maintenance. But that inflicts more damage on the cars, so the cost ends up being privatized and hidden in household budgets. Pennywise, pound foolish.

      • 0 avatar
        Autobraz

        See Brazil for an extreme example of Pch101′s point. Waffer-thin roads + poor maintenance = lots of expenses on wheel alignment, broken wheels, damaged suspension, blown tires + accidents when drivers abruptly steer to avoid a hole on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Agreed. US Freeways as a whole were in a lot worse condition than the European A-Roads(Freeways) and Motorways(Toll Freeways)

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Its not just the highways that are thinner, even many of the country roads too. A lot of them were paved in the 50s and 60s before there was good civil engineering expertise to know how much subgrade there should have been.

        And of course they probably had no idea back then how explosive automobile growth was going to be.

        A typical two lane country road costs approximately 1 million dollars a mile to construct.

      • 0 avatar
        ZekeToronto

        I read somewhere that some of the difference can be attributed to a different method of awarding contracts for road construction. Apparently in Germany, instead of following a lowest-cost bidder policy as is typically the case in North America, companies vying to build roads are required to guarantee the road for a certain number of years. This allows government to budget precisely what the cost per mile per year will be. The result: roads that are more expensive up front, but better and cheaper in the long term.

    • 0 avatar
      buck-50

      However, big rigs aren’t the ones destroying city streets.

      We spent the 80s, 90s and 00s gutting traditional government spending and giving ourselves massive tax breaks. That was unsustainable, and now we are paying the price. Our roads are shot, our telecommunications systems lag behind the rest of the industrial world, our schools are screwed.

      We got used to paying ourselves and saying “someone else can pay for the infrastructure.” Sorry to say, we can’t do that any more.

      Here’s what the future looks like: Government services are going to cost more and you are going to get less. And it’s going to be that way for a while. My daughter is 5 and I’m guessing that her kids will be the ones to get out from under the crap we created. Yay.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Federally, yes, but most roads aren’t federal projects.

        At the state and local level where most transportation projects are funded, taxes and spending have increased enormously. My state’s budget grew at an inflation adjusted 6.0% annual rate from 2000-2010.

        The issue is that hardly any of that money made it to roads or any of the other traditional public services because it was spent on platinum benefits for unionized state employees to retire at 50 instead.

        A single K-12 public education in this county costs taxpayers about $220,000 at face value which is more like $300,000 considering the backloaded employee benefits. For this incredible investment, one student in seven doesn’t even graduate and a quarter of those that do squeaked by too narrowly to qualify for admission to the state university system. $220,000.

        Screwed doesn’t even come close. But it comes closer than pretending this ongoing disaster is caused by a lack of spending.

      • 0 avatar

        “We spent the 80s, 90s and 00s gutting traditional government spending and giving ourselves massive tax breaks”

        In how many of those 30 years did government spending decrease?

      • 0 avatar
        indyb6

        @Dan & @Praxis – although I generally tend to agree with arguments similar to what buck-50 raised, the points you two raise sound reasonable too.

        What do you think is the best solution?

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      In the “big rig” category, you should probably include the “family car.” Today’s family car (if it’s car) weighs around 3700 lbs. or more and, if it’s an SUV or a crossover, it weighs over two tons — in some cases nearly 2.5 tons. Compare, say 25 years ago, a Volvo 740 (which would carry four people very comfortably, weighed about 3400 lbs.

      This extra weight has to take a toll not just on highways, but also plain ol’ city and suburban streets.

      And, BTW, while I have no idea whether tractor-trailer combinations pay their “fair share,” they do pay more than the tax on motor fuel.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The difference in weight between today’s family car or SUV and the Volvo of 25 years ago is not sufficient to cause more wear on roads, which are engineered to handle 90,000 pound tractor trailers.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        The damage a vehicle does to a road is not a linear relationship to the GVW. The reason for this is because a tractor-trailer imposes a much greater per-axle load. It is the concentrated per-axle load that does the damage.

      • 0 avatar
        993cc

        My family’s 1969 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon weighed, I believe, 5200 lbs. From the late 70′s to the 90′s cars got lighter. Now we’re back where we were before the first energy crisis, 40 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        RedStapler

        The road wear difference between a Smart Car and a Suburban is immaterial compared to a 30-45ton Big Rig.

        Some States allow heavier trucks that Federal Regs and allow them to concentrate more weight over a shorter span (bridge laws). Michigan allows Steel Haulers to load their 11 axle trucks up to 80tons (US).

        Between the Federal Excise taxes of 12% on heavy truck purchase, higher taxes on diesel and a tax of $30-50 per tires Trucks pay plenty of taxes.

        One of the studies I recall reading in a transportation trade rag from a few years ago showed that both cars and trucks were underpaying their fair share.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        In California there is a substantial “Weight Fee” tacked on to the annual tags for a “Commercial” vehicle, pickups included. It was supposed to cover the extra road repairs due to truck traffic. Guess what? It got sucked into the general fund.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      You’re right that ASCE have a vested interest in this, but aren’t they the only people qualified to make this determination?

      How do you become an expert at something without being impartial about it?

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      American roads are subsidized by about half by general revenues, state and federal. That’s at the current dismal level. That’s roughly 40 cents per gallon. Raise the tax by fifty cents. The system is self-supporting. There is an extra dime to take care of the backlog. The diminished demand pressures the oil producing nations, so they effectively help pay the tax. No need for CAFE–each extra gallon of gas bought includes effectively a ten cent tax disincentive.

      A little dust-up in the middle east in the spring time and we are there anyway. Gas just went up thirty cents in my area in the past month anyway. Nobody said ‘boo’.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    That’s why the government’s new flying car initiative is so important. Heavy investment now will prevent the Chinese from dominating the anti-gravity technology of the future.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    OK, the roads are falling apart. The only reason that the Ministry of Transport would issue a statement like this is because they plan to raise our taxes.

    The tone of that statement implies that they are not getting a sizable amount of our tax dollars every year, when in reality they are.

    We are already paying federal and state taxes to build and maintain roads. There is a tax on our gasoline as well. So where the heck is that money going to?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      For every three dollars spent on roads, two dollars in fuel taxes are collected.

      Sorry, but gas taxes don’t cover the expense. The general fund and bond issues (read: deficit spending) cover the rest.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “We are already paying federal and state taxes to build and maintain roads. There is a tax on our gasoline as well. So where the heck is that money going to?”

      Yeah, this is the biggest myth of all. Road funding comes from a variety of sources, local, state, and federal. There’s no way in hell our gas tax revenue covers it, and Congress isn’t doing a good job with infrastructure bills.

      • 0 avatar

        “There’s no way in hell our gas tax revenue covers it”

        Gas taxes alone may cover all infrastructure expenses if not for the high cost of public sector union workers. All material costs considering equal, I bet we are paying a lot for road maintenance/construction compared to other countries. Someone should do comparative study on how much it costs in other countries such as Japan and Germany to build the same length of road.

        There some tolls that exist just to cover the costs of operating these toll booths. How would a toll booth collecting $1 per car, pay for road maintenance when there are 15 public sector employees working there making more than $100,000 each. $1.5 Million cost to the taxpayers, $0 for roads, 15 more democratic votes. Ain’t democracy a b1tch?

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        While I know it is popular here to beat up on Public Sector Unions, alluster, very little of your transportation dollars go to government employees. The only employees that would be union at all would be those that perform minor jobs like pothole repair, litter pickup, signal maintenance, etc. Your higher-paid workers, the planners, engineers, etc. are considered “management” and generally not union.

        Most of your transporation dollar goes towards capital improvement projects (a.k.a. construction.) Those are invariably performed by private contractors, not government employees.

        And where are these $1 toll roads staffed by $100,000 employees? I can’t remember the last time I went through a staffed toll booth and got away with a toll that tiny.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Nice speech, but it’s dripping with nonsense. For example, Yellow road construction in Germany, 7.5 million euro per km. Autobahn, 10.5 million euro per km. At $1.3447/euro, that’s $16.2 million per mile for yellow road and $22.7 million per mile for autobahn.

        forum dot nationstates dot net/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=16926

        I’m pretty sure we don’t pay that much here, typically:

        www dot railstotrails dot org/resources/documents/whatwedo/policy/07-29-2008%20Generic%20Response%20to%20Cost%20per%20Lane%20Mile%20for%20widening%20and%20new%20construction.pdf

        Separate cost factors are used for urban and rural areas. In urban areas, widening costs are further disaggregated by the type of roadway (freeways, other divided highways, and undivided roads), and vary from $2.4 million to $6.9 million per lane-mile. In rural areas, costs depend upon highway functional class (Interstates, arterial roads, and collectors) and terrain type, and range from $1.6 million to $3.1 million per lane-mile. The model also assumes higher construction costs in areas where widening might be especially difficult or costly, such as densely developed urban areas or environmentally sensitive rural areas. These are termed “high cost lanes” and can range from $7.3 million to $15.4 million per lane-mile for construction in urban areas to $5.8 million to $9.9 million per lane-mile in rural areas.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Congress also has a very bad history with regards to, “Okay, this is a special fund we’re setting-up to fund this very specific thing and Only this thing, not to be tapped to fund budget shortfalls, not to be tapped for funding special projects, not to be tapped to fund personal pork, No Touchy!”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Most of this is simply due to the fact that most of the highway system in the US is 50-75 years old by now. Road grade, bridges, and such have a finite lifespan and that time is up. This wouldn’t be so bad if the budgets didn’t also have to include lots of new urban construction (which is invariably hyper-expensive) to accomodate population growth.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Why not reduce the need for so much infrastructure? Seems to me that we obviously can’t afford to maintain what we built.

    How about a telecommuting credit?

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    Obama’s State of the Union speech …

    “Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.”

    The GOP reply …

    “The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families,”

    The outcome … nothing is going to get done anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I have to agree with transportation infrastructure repairs, but this is the sort if thing that should have been already tackled in 2009 with the other so called “shovel ready projects” prior to, um, maxing out the Federal credit card. GOP would have been far wiser to highlight the enormous amount of money wasted since January 2009 with little to zero ROI (including defense spending pork along with the endless freebies, highlight it all don’t cherry pick).

      Facts guys, not vague rhetoric… its not as if we’re low on facts showing the administrations missteps.

      • 0 avatar
        rushn

        @28-Cars-Later

        My very very red state of Arizona spent a rather significant (and actually noticeable by results) amount of federal money on infrastructure expansion and improvement.

  • avatar
    TW4

    So begins the official push to double excise taxes for liquid transportation fuels.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      As it should have been a long time ago… the amount hasn’t been adjusted for inflation or been adjusted relative to the cost of fuel, and it’s clear that we need more spending on infrastructure.

      • 0 avatar
        TW4

        On what grounds? That the tax is a thoroughly inadequate way of raising revenues for road maintenance and construction b/c it is susceptible to inflation, oil price fluctuation, and CAFE regulations? or on the grounds that it is proportionally regressive and raises the CPI, which disproportionately affects the lower middle class, rural citizens, and senior citizens with fixed income?

        This is not how you fund roads. This is how a government from the 1930s, which lacks sufficient knowledge of taxation and sufficient political capital, goes about raising revenues. The federal roads funded by gasoline and diesel excise, did not even come about until 2 decades later.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        It doesn’t seem like you understand the issue, but what do you suggest as a better way? I’m open to ideas.

        Do you think liquid transportation fuel use is at least partially correlated to the use of infrastructure on which vehicles that use that fuel operate? Yes, there are external factors that influence fuel use, such as oil prices, but what do you suggest that’s better?

        Should we charge people based on the mileage they drive and the weight of their vehicle?

        So far from the totality of this thread, I’ve noticed that the “get off my lawn” types here are good at crapping on ideas, but bad at coming up with them.

      • 0 avatar
        TW4

        Is it too difficult to use discretionary spending from income tax revenue?

        Gasoline excise tax can be used to fund environmental agencies, US port agencies, or even function as a carbon tax. Excise tax is designed to offset the cost of regulation, hence the per-unit-tax rather than the traditional ad-valorem taxes like sales tax.

        Of course road usage is partially related to liquid fuels consumption, but “partially” related is not stable enough to fund one of the most important programs in the federal/state government. Furthermore, partially-related excise taxes have little or nothing to do with the benefit of road usage. Income tax, on the other hand, tends to capture the economic benefits of roads more accurately. All businesses move raw tonnage by road, even online venders of intellectual property have many tons of computer equipment, housed in buildings that required many tons of raw materials. Wealthy commuters tend to extract greater benefit from freely-flowing, well-maintained roadways.

        The way it works now, the wealthiest Tesla-buyers are the people who get out of paying for the roadways. Cute. No, adorable.

  • avatar
    George B

    Where I live in the suburbs of Dallas, the problem isn’t crumbling roads. The problem is inadequate number of lanes that haven’t kept up with population growth. Having Rep. Bill Shuster and the US congress involved just adds an unnecessary layer of skim/corruption and diffusion of responsibility. Let the state keep 100% of the fuel tax revenue, earmark it for pavement, adjust fuel tax rates if necessary, and roads will be adequately funded.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      That might work for a big state like Texas, or California. But consider a small state like Delaware: there’s one major interstate highway that runs through it: I-95, the principal north-south highway on the East Coast. I would wager that 95% of the people who drive on i-95 through Delaware aren’t Delaware residents and probably 75% of them don’t even stop there for gas. So, there has to be some reason for the citizens of Delaware to build and maintain a highway that they don’t particularly use. Of course, Delware can — and does — charge a toll for every user of its piece of i-95 . . . but do we really want to encourage that, given that the toll station creates a nice backup during periods of heavy traffic? Some years ago, the State of Connecticut had toll stations every 6 or 7 miles on its portion of I-95 (and, unlike Delaware, a lot of Connecticut residents actually used the highway). That made driving from, say, New York to Boston a real torture. Thankfully, they have been removed.

      The privacy people would go nuts, but the alternate solution is to equip every vehicle with a transponder (like EZ Pass) and simply bill people for use of the major highways as the roadways read the transponders going by. Two-lanes, city and suburban streets would be “free.”

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      My wife is in highway design, and it’s not that simple; adding lanes just moves the choke point elsewhere. That doesn’t stop anyone, of course. Her company has spent years on the 405 project near Los Angeles, which will have a primarily political effect (unless everything connecting to it gets widened too, someday).

      Once you’ve expanded the highway’s entire length, the streets feeding them become the problem (for example, getting from 101 to Stanford University on surface streets takes FOREVER). Naturally, as populated areas densify the need for roads goes up while the space for them goes down (and their cost goes up, because of land values for eminent domain and the difficulty of working around a busier area).

      At some point mass transit starts being more effective than more roads. The idea there is that you can direct surface street traffic away from highway onramps, towards transit hubs in the suburbs. We haven’t really figured out what to do at the other end of the mass transit journey though. In a downtown area like SF’s financial district or Manhattan, everyone can walk, but that only works in real cities.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        My first job was working with a company who produced software to manage CAD documents. I got a little exposure to this sort of thing as most of the customers were state DOTs its interesting subject matter.

  • avatar
    Rday

    The Feds would rather spend money on weapons systems for waging war. We don’t have the capital to repair what we have. Just think what we could have done with all the money spent on Iraq and Afghanistan. What a pathetic state of affairs we find ourselves in. and we only have ourselves to blame…we elected these con men to office.

  • avatar

    Let me know what road that is, because hell if I drive on it while it’s in that condition!

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    The combination of climate and truck traffic are murder on the roads in my area and they are deteriorating fast. The roads are noticeably worse than in years past to the point that it has made me reconsider my choice of vehicles. I would never order any optional “sport” suspension or lower profile tires now.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      “I would never order any optional “sport” suspension or lower profile tires now.”

      Same here. Unfortunately, even a family car like the Camrys and Accords are coming with 18″ tires in some trims.

      This is ridiculousness.

      Was there a secret committee of auto manufacturers who all unanimously decided to lather 18″ wheels on all their cars? And then the ones you can get 16″ wheels on are steel wheels with plastic hub caps, which almost forces you into buying the larger alloy wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        It’s not the size of the wheel, it’s the aspect ratio that is the issue. 18″ wheels on a truck would be fine, but on a Mini they would be punishing.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Sorry, I should have included “Low Profile”…

        But you bring up another point. Some trucks have 20″ wheels on them!

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        With the increased size of car sides and much smaller windows fifteen inch wheels would look very silly on modern cars. I spent last night at the auto show in Chicago marveling how I couldn’t even rest my elbow at the bottom of the window without my upraised arm being way over the roof.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    It’s a complex problem. The point of this discussion is I’m going to guess federally funded infrastructure (but as a whole, it is all falling apart).

    The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 is what started, in earnest the creation of our interstate highway system. The Eisenhower Interstate System was completed in 1991, and cost about $120 billion to lay down almost 43,000 miles of highway (not lane miles, linear miles – lane miles would be much higher). There are continued projects to this day, but the Act of 1956 is considered to have reached completion in 1991. Adjusting for inflation into 2013 dollars, the cost would be $202 billion.

    http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/homepage.cfm

    The reality is that sections of our interstate highway system is 57 years old now. Traffic, freeze, thaw, debris, weather, sun, all take their slow toll. A lot of this work was done in the 50′s and 60′s. Steel on a bridge – not meant to last forever. Not is concrete, etc. etc. etc.

    We haven’t been investing in maintenance and deferring, and well, when you don’t paint, patch, fill, and seal – it starts to fall apart. Further you reach a point where you can only paint, patch, fill and seal so much.

    The other issue is that certain segments are getting used far beyond their initial design. A lack of alternatives, a lack of lane miles, and poor planning has resulted in some areas supporting 2X, 3X, even as much as 5X of the traffic they were designed for. Buses and heavy trucks rip apart the roads and bridges, planners struggle on when to shut things down for repairs because of the impact.

    Tax collection isn’t covering the cost of infrastructure. Hasn’t for years. Never mind corruption, endless studies of studies and impact and environmental concerns, and you can build here because of the purple bellied yellow spotted two toed gecko! Think of the geckos!!! All of these studies and standards (and yes I do care about the planet) adds massive costs and slows down projects and their ability to have a positive impact.

    The idea that well, maybe we should just tear up some roads because we don’t have the money to care of them is a non-starter. The US population has more than doubled since the first mile of the system started. Our population is projected to grow to a 1/2 billion people in another 50 years.

    Contrary to a minority view, cars aren’t going anywhere. Oh they will get more efficient, they may get smaller, they may drive themselves and have technology we didn’t think of – but the United States is vast compared to other countries with more complete infrastructure for mass transit. Rip up Interstate 90 through South Dakota and you’ll collapse the economy in the state, raise transport costs for everything that goes east/west and hurt commerce. Never mind that all those new people will need new roads to support where they live and where they work.

    What’s happening is a perfect storm of aging infrastructure that will need constant rotating replacement, meeting a pretty corrupt government that loves to waste taxes, with an electorate that is convinced they are taxed to death (I don’t care to get into the debate on if we are/aren’t historically speaking), and no one willing to pay for what has to be done.

    But I do agree with the assessment that if we do nothing – it’s all going to fall apart – and that will be very bad for the United States.

    I’ll close by skating on a political line. You can’t “outsource” road building and repair jobs. Back when the stimulus discussion was going on in both the Bush and Obama Administrations there was a huge opportunity to have a CCW style program of public works to rebuild our roads, schools, and vital infrastructure, while creating real jobs, for American citizens, and providing massive vocational training.

    I don’t think many (yes some would no matter what) would barf on an idea that provided better infrastructure, put millions of Americans back to work in tax paying jobs that provided a living wage, and gave something back to the people footing the bill in improved roads, decreased traffic, and our children learning in schools not ready to fall down. We missed the chance.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “But I do agree with the assessment that if we do nothing – it’s all going to fall apart – and that will be very bad for the United States.”

      Yes, the lack of investment in infrastructure and education, as well as the lack of immigration reform (which is being kicked around in Congress yet again), will have a big toll going forward on our economy. The squabbling has meant we have ignored these issues for too long, and if anything made them worse in some cases.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        There has not been a lack of spending on basic (meaning, kindergarten through 12th grade) education in this country. Spending increases on education have outpaced the rate of inflation over the past 30 years.

        Adjusted for inflation, the nation’s expenditures per pupil have almost doubled since 1981 (going from $5,773 to over $10,600).

        In Pennsylvania alone, spending on basic education doubled between 1995 and today (again, adjusted for inflation). Incidentally, while total public school enrollment in Pennsylvania has decreased by 35,510 since 2000, the number of public school employees has gone the other way by 35,281 during that same time period. This suggests misplaced priorities and a spending problem, not insufficient revenues.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “This suggests misplaced priorities and a spending problem, not insufficient revenues.”

        Yes, when I say investment, I’m referring to the effective use of funds. That might mean we need to more effectively use funds that already exist for certain aspects of education, and it might mean we need to allocate more funds for certain aspects, and it might even mean we need to cut funding for certain things.

        The reality is that we don’t do enough to figure out how to spend effectively on education, so we throw money at stupid things and hope they work instead of throwing money at smart things.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I live in PA and while I cannot quote Geeber’s sources this assessment sounds about right. K-12 education is a very complex issue, even more so than infrastructure because your finished product is much tougher to judge a success vs failure. The most common metric of course is standardized testing, and in that department education as a whole has been losing for years. Forget fixing public education, just nuke the entire system on a state-by-state (or regional) basis and start over.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      “The other issue is that certain segments are getting used far beyond their initial design.”

      With honorable mention to the cloverleaf interchanges. They were probably a great idea with 1950′s speeds, car types and traffic densities, but are sphincter clenching games of Russian Roulette in today’s driving. I’ve never seen them in any other country’s high-speed roads, they need to go.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Personally I would have liked to have had a WPA style program from the “stimulus” to put anyone who was unemployed who would take the work. We could have gotten much done.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      A very thoughtful analysis, ApaGttH. I agree with virtually all the points you made except perhaps the tendency for people to overestimate the amount of corruption in government. Having lived in at least five different locales for decent periods of time, I generally had the sense that a lot was getting done on a shoestring. I never witnessed a bridge or highway to nowhere. What I did see was the 1950 era concrete roads, interstate and also local, being patched beyond recognition. Most work crews seemed to be doing their jobs, and the workers didn’t exactly seem to be partaking in the high life. Truth be told, I’ve seen much more goofing off, goldbricking and generally sucking off of from people much higher on the food chain. If there’s some political graft, what I’ve seen generally is not a notable part of the reason why the roads stink. It’s largely because we use up more than we pay for.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        I have seen the waste first-hand. Not all government agencies do it; I’ve worked with some very good ones (most of them have been small school districts and water districts). Transportation agencies tend to be among the bad ones. Ironically, part of the problem is the public’s desire for oversight. They end up going over the top, with a massive army of people checking the design teams’ and contractors’ timesheets for waste (more timesheet-checkers than consultants and contractors, it felt like). Sometimes you see inexplicable stupidity, like requiring the architects and engineers to work in temporary offices set up by the agency, except those offices don’t receive furniture or computers for a month, and software for another two months – and no one’s allowed to go work in their home office until everything’s set up.

        None of it is inherent to public agencies, but it isn’t easy to change, either.

    • 0 avatar
      TW4

      Nice post.

      Imo, one answer to the problem is quite clear. We have a tax that does not adjust for the inflation in road maintenance and construction costs, nor does it adjust for changing fleet fuel economy or demand fluctuations based upon the price of oil. The tax also leaks into CPI (since transportation oils are used to transport goods and individuals who perform services) and they disproportionately impact lower income citizens.

      It is a miracle that the federal government has not wielded the sledgehammer of excise tax (intended to offset regulatory costs, hence the per unit tax assessment) with greater lethality.

      I’m not suggesting that we have a politically convenient solution before us, but adjusting excise tax is merely a stop-gap solution before the next excise tax crisis.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    The money you were talking about was used instead to give people extended unemployment benefits rather than civil works projects.

    I agree, it would have been a much better way to have spent the money. Would have paid dividends for years and years to come.

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    Take care of the roads here? Why not waste it in iraq or israel?

  • avatar
    skor

    Ayn Rand, Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Free Market, Guns, Boot Strappy = Good

    Taxes, Government, Socialism, Obama, Immigrants, 47% = Bad.

    Am I doing it right?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Well you forgot the Constitution, freedom, and of course cars for the good column.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Obligatory, given the typical person that mentions the Constitution here:

        www dot theonion dot com/articles/area-man-passionate-defender-of-what-he-imagines-c,2849/

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Now, I don’t want to get off on a rant here… ;)

        …but having a legal document that grants you the citizen some rights under the law I would put in the “good” column, could be worse and you have no rights guaranteed. As for interpretation of said document, well, that’s a little more complicated.

        The Lou Dobbs one is good too, its about time he got deported:

        http://www DOT theonion DOT com/articles/us-deports-lou-dobbs,2852/

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I saw an interesting documentary on Oregon’s plight regarding road maintenance.

    The problem they found was as vehicles become more efficient, less fuel tax is collected.

    I do believe fuel tax in the US should be increased. This would allow a fairer distribution of taxes.

    People who drive more accept a more equatable portion of maintaining the road infrastructure.

    Increasing fuel tax has to be incremental and will take a long time.

    This will also encourage people to buy more responsible vehicles.

    The cost of driving will not increase contrary to what most people would think as people would invest in more economical vehicles, especially if they know that the price of fuel will increase over a given period of time.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      A higher motor fuels tax will not ensure a more equitable distribution of any revenues. The level of taxes and how the revenues generated by said taxes are distibuted among states are two separate issues.

      If higher fuel taxes encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, we are essentially back to square one.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @geeber
        I’m assuminng the taxes are ploughed back into transportation (road) infrastructure.

        If the taxes collected by the transportation sector don’t equal expenditure then it is subsidised. I’m not considering how the money is distributed, only that the system can fund itself.

        I’m describing a system as self funding, how your governments divide their revenues is another problem. The infrastructure has to generate enough money to fund itself.

        And your aren’t back to square one. As vehicles become more economical more tax is collected to maintain infrastructure.

        In the end you will have to pay more for what you have. More funding is required and increasing fuel tax will have a user pays base.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        How revenues are distributed among states is determined as much by political factors as by need. It is not completely in synch with the amount of federal motor fuel taxes collected within each state and remitted to Washington, D.C.

        I know this firsthand, as Rep. Bill Shuster represents my old hometown. He took the place of his father, Rep. Bud Shuster. Both father and son were/are quite adept at making sure that lots of federal transportation dollars found/find their way back to southcentral Pennsylvania. My father, a life-long, diehard Democrat, has voted for both Shusters precisely that reason.

        Then there is the trend of spending federal motor fuels taxes on non-road projects.

        As for how more economical vehicles will result in more tax revenues for maintenance, your first post contains this sentence:

        “The problem they found was as vehicles become more efficient, less fuel tax is collected”

        If revenues from motor fuels taxes depend on the amount of gasoline consumed, and higher taxes encourage more people purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles, I’m not seeing how total revenues will increase. At best, you are treading water.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Each state has their own fuel tax which is supposed to pay for road maintenance. Oregon can do what they wish with this tax to suit their needs.

        Separate from that is the federal excise tax on fuel. About 2/3 of goes towards roads, the rest, elsewhere.

        How the Federal and State governments squander their fuel tax revenues are two separate matters.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Have the same issue in Washington state. Washington state has been a leader in “manufactured congestion,” as planners like to call it. Intentionally creating bottlenecks and slow downs to snarl up traffic. Either for safety (slow things down), or to preserve crumbling infrastructure (slower moving traffic doesn’t exact as extreme of toll) or mostly, to get people out of cars and onto buses, bikes, light rail, or their feet.

      Well.

      It’s worked.

      It’s worked so well that gasoline tax collection is down. Way down. And they don’t cover the costs. So now the geniuses have decided to punish electric car owners by charging them an extra $100 a year – never mind they pay taxes on electricity, tires they buy, any service labor (taxed in the state), etc. etc.

      A similar problem happened when cigarette sales were gone after. As sales declined in some states so did the sin taxes that were collected off of them – which in many states went to funding – schools and/or infrastructure.

      D’oh!

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        It has not worked because the public transport system is only useful to any one that can comprehend it and lives near bus routes. Trains? yes, only if you live south of down town. Use a bicycle, sure, only in a city where it rains 9 months out of 12, and the geography is beautiful but severely hilly does that make sense… Poor street lighting, shattered roads and side walks are a nightmare for bicyclists, pedestrians AND motorists!
        Only in the mind of a Seattle city engineer is the collective noun for potholes, “road”…

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      Did they show that in the US or Australia? Because ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) is a great example of gas taxes going down the pork drain. Example, the Vera Katz floating esplanade (a miles long floating dock on the river that flows through downtown Portland) Built with gas tax money! In theory it’s a bike path. Did they show that? Or the gas tax money spent opening a disused scenic highway as a hiking trail & bike path for miles. No cars on the bikepath, please, but gorgeous views of the crumbling 4-lane Interstate below.

      • 0 avatar
        Turkina

        I’m okay with this. If Portland has decided to increase bike traffic in order to reduce the effects of automobile traffic, then that is an acceptable use of transportation tax money. Unfortunately, someone decided to do a Robert Moses and take up all the available space along the river for cars, so the path is floating on the river.

        I wish all states would suck it up and increase gas taxes to fund road maintenance. In addition, since electric cars do not pay fuel taxes, I see no problem with paying $100 or so a year. As long as it is a steep discount compared to perhaps, a Prius, they need to contribute at least a little.

        Time to pay up. That’s a common problem with Americans today. They neither want to pay for past indiscretions or future improvements, without realizing that the present has been the past, and will be the future, and they are responsible for it.

        (Edit: holy crap, what a temporal disaster that last paragraph was!)

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Since bicyclists benefit from paved and pothole-free roads (it’s not fun riding on a muddy road to work, and potholes can do some serious damage to bike wheels), they should pay, too. Perhaps we could levy a “road tax” on the sale of bicycles and related equipment.

  • avatar
    morbo

    What I find amazing is how the same road can be badly mismanaged when it crosses state lines. last year, I was travelling the pallisades Parkway from NJ to NY (Bear Mountain Oktoberfest FTW!). No problems in Jersey. I get 1 mile into NY state when a monster pothole (which I couldn’t see with a Suburban in front of me in heavy high speed traffic) devoured one of the factory 20′s on my 300C. Stupid me for picking fshion over function, but dammit if NY state does nothing for road maintenence. That road is smooth glass like blacktop in NJ, and immediately turns into decreipt 2-foot wide potholed Hell on the NY side.

    • 0 avatar
      Pinzgauer

      Yup, that road is a POS when you hit the NY side.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I’ll counter that the highways around Newark and the approach into and out of EWR is nothing but a mine field and used artillery range of potholes, bad pavement and grossly uneven bridge dividers. Holy ass crackers I thought I was going to die in a rental Hyundai one time when I hit one of those craters.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    How about selling specialized license plates/stickers that allow the owner of the vehicle to go x-miles per hour over the speed limit? Ensure that they’re only issued to those with good driving records and make it expensive enough to generate sufficient revenue. Each state can sell their own plates or stickers allowing for speeds of their choosing and charge whatever amount they want for them. They could even sell them to out-of-staters if they wanted.

    It may not be the greatest idea, but it beats the old “tax people against their wills for their own good” mentality that seems to prevail in these situations.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      That blows a hole in the entire “exceeding the posted speed limit always makes you death-on-wheels” line of thinking that drives enforcement efforts, which, in turn, generates a fair amount of revenue for state and local governments.

      • 0 avatar
        naterator

        No, it doesn’t. I think you missed the part about “make it expensive enough to generate sufficient revenue”.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        You apparently don’t understand that the people who clamor for strict enforcement of speed limits really do believe that exceeding them makes one a mortal danger to everyone else. They conveniently ignore or completely dismiss the revenue-raising part. They really do believe that “speed kills.”

        Adopting reclusive_in_nature’s plan would expose the real motivation behind the entire enforcement effort – raising revenue. The “speed kills” crowd would have to explain why, if exceeding posted limits is so dangerous, we are allowing anyone to do it?

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I like the idea of going FDR style, and putting all of the able-unemployed people to work fixing/building infrastructure. They wouldn’t be paid much, but they would gain job skills.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Others on this and other boards have advanced that same idea of putting the unemployed to work fixing up their cities, parks, roads, etc, instead of standing in Obama’s welfare line. No workie? No money!

      But it will never come to pass because it means…..egad!….work. Toil. Labor.

      Why work if you can get money for nuttin’?

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        A big question is exactly how much unskilled labor does road and bridge construction require? From what I’ve seen, road construction involves the use of some very expensive machinery. You don’t want just anyone operating it.

        There can only be so many flaggers at each construction site.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I went to elementary school in building built by WPA workers in the 30s. That building is still standing in my old home town.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Neither political side would go for it.

        For the right it means government hand outs. Government in infrastructure? Gettin’ the ‘guberment out of my life!!! And where the Hell is my farm subsidy check. Only people gettin’ that money workin’ is illegal aliens anyway – givin’ ‘em a job to buy their votes. Yup!

        For the left it will be – but – but – but – who will babysit the children? THE CHILDREN? How can you expert this poor soul who says he has a bad back to do such work. Unemployment wages for work is almost – slavery I tell you (and well, for some it would be below minimum wage standards, kind of a problem legally). Oh the pooooor children!

        For the eco-weenies it would be. You can’t build that road there – think of the Arkansas purple bellied yellow spotted two toed tree sloth! Why, you’ll upset their habitat!!!

        For the lead contractors it would be how can we outsource and off shore as much of this as possible to line our pockets, US economy be damned. We have share holders to keep happy. SHARE HOLDERS!

        Oh man, we’re so screwed…

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        APaGttH, I agree! We’ll never get a consensus to take the unemployed off welfare and handouts like food stamps and Medicaid.

        But as to geeber’s question of just how much unskilled labor can be utilized, it doesn’t have to be only road and bridge repair. There are all sorts of jobs that can be done for innercity cleanup, or park maintenance, or even demolition cleanup of old neighborhoods. Work that currently goes undone. It doesn’t take any special skills to pick up trash and put it in a dumper.

        Last century there was such a make-work project called the CCC. It put a lot of unemployed men to work, until they found work more to their liking. Read up. It was very successful!

        Obama and the ‘crats should take a lesson out of that playbook instead of just providing never-ending handouts to the chronically unemployed at the expense of the people working and paying taxes. I can think of plenty of manual labor jobs in construction, road repair and bridge repair. But it requires a willingness to work. No special skills. No-brainer jobs.

        There’s plenty of work that needs to be done in America. The problem is finding people willing to do that work, other than the illegal aliens.

      • 0 avatar
        naterator

        See Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Do a little reading first, then you can throw around the standard Tea Party epithets.

        On second thought, never mind….ugh

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Read up on how some states have tried to undermine the 1996 act’s various requirements, and then you’ll be able to do more than throw in the Tea Party reference as a substitute for rational discussion of this issue.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        When I saw the words “Personal Responsibility” associated with gov’t, I just had to look it up. This evidently was the Clinton era “welfare reform” act and if you read up on it it was somewhat successful. However in 2012:

        “In July 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services released a memo notifying states that they are able to apply for a waiver for the work requirements of the TANF program, but only if states were also able to find credible ways to increase employment by 20%.[11] The waiver would allow states to provide assistance without having to enforce the work component of the program, which currently states that 50 percent of a state’s TANF caseload must meet work requirements.[12] The Obama administration stated that the change was made in order to allow more flexibility in how individual states operate their welfare programs.”

        I’m reading this as the Dept. of HHS released a MEMO instructing states to circumvent provisions in this LAW allowing people to be deadbeats again and collect freebies without at least HALF of them working, although maybe this isn’t a fair assessment. In any event it does sound like bureaucrats attempting to play judiciary and interpret law via memo. Between things like this and the incredibly inane “minimum wage” rhetoric now making the rounds, in this the most serious economic crisis in US history, I pray the revolution will be quick and those in power are held accountable for their crimes.

        http://en.wikipedia DOT org/wiki/Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Act

    • 0 avatar
      brickgeek

      We pretty much already do that; it is called the TSA.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    The roads are bad and getting worse. They will not fix themselves. Money needs to be spent and (to quote Rodriguez) “that’s a concrete cold fact”.
    Fixing them will mean government taxes… OR private sector spending or both. Either way the tax payer will be hurt in the short term.

  • avatar
    stuki

    As long as the alternative is handing even more money, to the same incompetents who since I don’t know when bitches about “who’s gonna pave the roads” whenever someone questions handing over half their life’s work to them for little visible return; I’d say “roads are overrated. Get a Raptor!”

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I rest my case.

      I don’t know what kind of Cheddar you make, but factoring every single tax I pay, I don’t come close to handing over 50% of my nut to my government overlords.

      I like roads – they take me places – like Toyota says – or General Motors

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “I don’t come close to handing over 50% of my nut to my government overlords.”

        Agreed. Most of the people who say crap like “whenever someone questions handing over half their life’s work to them for little visible return” are probably the exact people who pay 0% federal income tax or get money back through the EITC.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        People who pay the top rates in California, New York City and Hawaii do pay 50 percent or more of their total income in taxes to various levels of government.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        You must live in a marginally less confiscatory state than me, then.

        And, while roads may be a-ok, I like Raptors, too. They, too, take you places. Even places so remote you are far away from the nearest donut shop.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “People who pay the top rates in California, New York City and Hawaii do pay 50 percent or more of their total income in taxes to various levels of government”

        No, they don’t. They might pay a marginal rate of approximately 50%, depending on the circumstances, but absolutely no one pays an effective rate that high. Also note that social security payroll tax has a cap, and so does California SDI.

        Also, most people who would pay that high a marginal rate also have significant capital gains, which would greatly lower their effective rate below that amount.

        In any case, most of the people complaining about this usually pay 0% or get money back under the EITC, but are too stupid to know that they do.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      You bring up what is perhaps the likely only upside of the crumbling roads for a guy like me…The return of real 4x4s with tough front axles and flexy suspensions. You’ll need Rubicon capabilities just to get to work.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Most road construction work in the United States is performed by private contractors. But an astonishing amount of construction money is lost in planning or “impact assessment.” I read that the cost of planning the replacement of two aging drawbridges between Oregon & Washington on Interetate 5 had exceeded 100 million dollars and that the resulting design didn’t even meet Coast Guard approval because there’s not enough room underneath for passing ships! Oh well, back to the drawing board.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    This topic is up my alley, since I spent nearly 30 years as a Cali highway engineer, the last 20 in highway design, creating project estimates. The two lane highway Dynasty mentions does NOT cost $1 million per mile. It’s closer to $5 million for a full rebuild, digging up the three feet of structural section and replacing the drainage, striping, signs and guardrail.

    New roads aren’t thinner, governments are opting for 3″ overlays on top of nylon mesh smothered in asphalt emulsion instead of new 8″ asphalt, hoping the mesh prevents the failed pavement below doesn’t work its way through the mesh. It’s a 5-7 year stopgap, but governments expect it to last 15-20 years.

    Freeways are MUCH more expensive, running $50-$60 million per mile for an 8 lane freeway. Most of our interstate system dates back from ’58 to ’75, and heavily traveled urban freeways have a 30 year lifespan, so much of it needs full repaving. The concrete is still 9″ on new construction, but again, governments have found that grinding down existing concrete smoothes it out. Up to 1-1/2 inches are ground away, cracks and spalls repaired, and failed slabs replaced, but the pavement life is extended only 10-15 years due to the thinner concrete holding up heavy traffic and especially heavy trucks.

    When originally built, the real estate cost more than the paving, but today without needed new real estate, the materials costs have skyrocketed. Asphalt cost $6/ton in 1971, $70-$80 and a ton will pave two feet of a twelve foot lane. Concrete used to cost $15 a cubic yard, enough to pave three feet of a twelve foot lane, and now it costs $160-$180 per yard. Bridges used to cost roughly $45 per square foot as a thumbnail estimate, now it’s $600 in Cali, due to newer seismic standards.

    I wouldn’t knock the ASCE, they’re an association of civil engineers, and the profession is so short-handed that licensed engineers can get a job anywhere today. The ASCE makes nothing by recommending a major rebuild of roads and bridges that have been neglected for decades, with budget squeezing that started in the mid-1970s. They’re simply telling it like it is, and their price tag is in the ballpark, if not a bit conservative.

    In this forum, the horrible condition of roads nationwide is obvious – look at the comments above. What you have to consider is that responsibility is shared by cities, counties and states (with states representing the Feds on interstates) and the financing method, the gas tax, is grossly inadequate. In 1972, the tax was 16 cents, state and federal, per gallon, and is about 34 cents today, whereas the 16 cents adjusted for inflation would be $1.20, and if adjusted for the even higher cost of roadwork, should be $1.80. That’s politically impossible today with a barrel of oil going up from $7/bbl in 1972 to $105/bbl today.

    This site features cars with multi-link suspensions, 22″ wheels with rubber band tires, and lower road clearances for handling at speed, but the roads are reaching the point where they’re suited only for cars with A-arms in front, leaf springs in back, and 15″ wheels with balloon tires. In other words, the time isn’t far off when you will see only Sajeev in his panther on the roads!

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    The major problem with infrastructure replacement is that everyone is a child. With new construction it’s waiting with breathless anticipation for the “new/improved” whatever. “Just wait until we finish this!” But with replacement there’s just bypass/removal, delays and headaches, bitches and moans until the new whatever goes in and it’s back to business as usual, no changes. A bridge for a bridge. Whoopee.

    No wonder the pols defer it down the road for another schmuck to deal with it. Well, the road’s ended and quit whining. The public has to suck it up, pay for it and let it happen.

  • avatar
    alf42

    Wasn’t the stimulus supposed to fix this? It was sold as an infrastructure program. According to recovery.gov, only 8% of the $840 billion in stimulus was used to fund transportation and infrastructure. And much of that 8% was non-highway related, such as broadband internet, federal building construction, etc. It turns out, most of the stimulus was used to buy votes, in one fashion or another. Roads don’t vote, so they weren’t that important. Have we ever heard the mainstream media in this country question the administration about the success or lack there of, of the stimulus? I sure haven’t.

    We have an administration and many in the gov’t whose number one goal is perpetuating a permanent underclass by giving handouts, which keeps them in power. Keeping power is their primary goal. Making the country better is not their goal. It amazes me how many people STILL can’t see this.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      We did get transportation infrastructure, just not always the most needed. If an agency could get its act together and get a solid application in quickly, you got the money. Our airport got its taxiways and ramp areas repaved, while the streets leading to the airport are still terrible. Why, maybe the county airport commission better at writing proposals than the city street and public works department. Remember, these had to be “shovel ready” projects.

  • avatar

    In an interesting bit of timing, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed significant hikes in the state’s gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees to pay for the rebuilding of the state’s roads, which are abysmal. Michigan’s crappy economy for the past 10 year means that little has been spent on infrastructure and with the freeze/thaw cycles we have here, the road are pockmarked with craters.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    another”lets get in your wallet” scare..
    Sorry,not buying it!

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    What did the USA have before the horse and cart? Roads & cars, silly!

  • avatar
    volvo

    Wow! Haven’t been on the site for a couple of years. Sounds like point/counterpoint on Fox or CNN.

    What can be done about the failing road infrastructure on an individual basis is simply to get a vehicle that can handle the 3rd world conditions.

    Since this is TTAC any suggestions? Tundra, Sierra, F150, 4runner, FJCruiser, HIghlander, Durango?

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    No money for roads….must buy more drones.

  • avatar
    dancote

    Roads get us where we need to go in our lives. Roads get the goods & services we need when & where they’re needed.
    Good roads make all the difference in how smoothly things run.
    Bad roads hurt individuals … the cost of tire punctures, bent wheels, suspension failures and other associated repair/maintenance costs need to be considered in road/highway maintenance. Bad roads hurt commerce, interstate and intrastate. Can freight be moved expeditiously/reliably on our deteriorating road system? I would say less and less every day we defer road maintenance,
    We traveled in our RV around the country for several years after we retired. We have seen first-hand the deterioration of road systems in several areas of the country.
    Not gonna name names or point fingers but guess what? Something has to pay for our roads … they will not miraculously regenerate on their own.
    Until and unless private benefactors come forward to fund all the work necessary to repair/maintain our vitally important road/highway system (yeah, that’s gonna happen) the only way it will happen is if we pay for it ourselves.
    I’m afraid that means increased taxes. If you use the nation’s roads,as an individual,or as an entity, pay to maintain/improve them. Don’t want to do that? Be prepared to pay more every day for increased costs associated with getting goods to market.

    I desperately want to get my digs into the corporate Robber Barons who continue to grab everything for themselves and their insanely rich friends while happily outsourcing American jobs but I can’t name Jack Welch directly even though someone with that name and with that squeaky voice and with that particularly distinctive physiognomy has consistently outsourced and preached outsourcing to other fat cats.

    Outsourcing’s not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose.

    But, leave a crumb or two for those of us at the lower end of the food chain.

    • 0 avatar
      alf42

      You sound like Obama, blaming all our ills on these mythical “rich guys”. Who are these people? Do they have names? They sure do provide a good excuse for our president to use for his failure to get anything done. You see, he tries so dang hard (in between rounds of golf and vacation) but these rich guys keep messing everything up (many of which donated to his campaign). So your solution is to raise taxes. We need to create more taxpayers and stop spending so much money paying people who aren’t working.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Road and gas taxes should be used for what they were meant to be, not to pay for medicaid or food stamps.

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    These same business groups have been pushing for this tax increase since at least 2008. They seem to not understand the law of unintended consequences – raising taxes on consumption, after a certain point, depresses demand for a product even more, leading to less revenue, not more. They are just as likely to increase revenue by lowering the tax, as they are by increasing it.

    If infrastructure, on a federal level (which is what this article refers to), requires more spending, then I recommend eliminating these, to start with: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxcenter.shtml

    I’d also look at this more holistically; we have an entire arm of the gov’t, and favorite of the current administration, encouraging lower fuel consumption, if fact, blatantly doing so via the tax code. We are told this has benefits to society, but we are not told of the costs (the old cost/benefit analysis, always ignored by enviros). Look at our gov’t propaganda here: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/why.shtml

    I would favor increased spending on infrastructure by severely reducing the role of the EPA in policy decisions on these matters. The EPA should primarily concern itself with regulating industrial pollution, and nothing else.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I think the issue some people having with paying increased taxes is that they’ve been burned in the past.

    How many Taxes needed for X have been used for unrelated purposes?

    I know here our “temporary tollway, soon freeway!” system had the slogan “free in 73!”. Our tolls for this “soon-to-be-free” system just recently doubled IIRC in 2012.

    The original goal was to only toll drivers until the bonds were paid off. However the tollway keeps re-issuing bonds so they never legally have to convert to becoming a freeway. On top of that we have gas taxes as well….

    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=8327185

  • avatar
    thornmark

    If there were serious about infrastructure they would repeal Davis-Bacon, which drives costs way up.
    http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/02/repealing-the-davis-bacon-act-would-save-taxpayers-$10-9-billion

    And how about the “Big Dig”, cost many many X forecast and, at $22 billion, more than 3 Panama Canals. Oh, and it’s falling apart. Thank you Tip O’Neill for overriding Reagan’s veto:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dig


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