Bringing America’s Highways Back Up to Speed

Here’s a simple fact: America wouldn’t have earned its place as the world’s largest economy if it hadn’t invested heavily in an infrastructure. When the $25 billion dollar Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was signed into law, it was the largest investment in the nation’s roads in our country’s history. But that was over 60 years ago and now we need to bring our infrastructure back up to speed.

If you commute regularly, you’re probably familiar with the issues facing motorists in the United States. The poor condition of our highways creates more than just safety hazards; it contributes to traffic congestion, increased fuel usage, and more vehicle repairs. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave America’s roads a big fat D in their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. According to the research, “One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and our roads have a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs”. So what does this mean for the White House’s rumored $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan that is set to be released later this year? Well, it could mean significant savings in other sectors of the economy.

The ASCE report finds that there is a significant lack of funding for our highway system, “resulting in a $836 billion backlog of highway and bridge capital needs. The bulk of the backlog ($420 billion) is in repairing existing highways”. This means that asphalt and pavement repair projects will be a large part of the effort to strengthen infrastructure in the U.S.

Highway asphalt repair and paving has many benefits that aren’t immediately apparent. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that “each dollar spent on road, highway, and bridge improvements returns $5.20 in the form of lower vehicle maintenance costs, decreased delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, lower road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow”.

The badly needed investment in highway infrastructure repair has wide-reaching social and economic benefits which should make it a high priority for lawmakers. It will create jobs in the asphalt paving industry and increase demand for materials like asphalt and aggregates which are largely produced locally. We can also unclog highway congestion, decelerate fuel demand, steer toward improved safety, and tap the brakes on emissions all at once.