Monthly Archive for May, 2009

Ohio’s Infrastructure Receives A Grade Of C-

The Ohio Council of Local Sections of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) recently released 2009 Ohio Infrastructure Report Card gives that state’s infrastructure a grade of C-.

The report graded the current condition of 10 infrastructure areas that are essential to the state’s economic prosperity and quality of life. Areas graded are aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, electricity, parks and recreation, railroads, roads, schools, and wastewater.

The ASCE Ohio Council estimates that an investment in infrastructure renewal of more than $46 billion is needed over the next five years to address the state’s crumbling infrastructure.

This assessment of Ohio’s infrastructure follows the January 28, 2009 national release by ASCE of its fourth Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. This report card, like its predecessors, was designed to provide a grade for the current condition of components of America’s crumbling infrastructure, raise public awareness, stimulate debate, and propose, highlight, and promote solutions. ASCE graded the nation’s overall infrastructure condition as a D and estimated the projected cost for repairing the nation’s infrastructure as $2.2 trillion over the next five years.


ASCE has called for a renewed partnership between citizens; local, state and the federal governments; and the private sector to work together to define the most critical projects and get the support needed for immediate action.

Ohio’s infrastructure grades ranged from a high of B- for bridges to a low of D for roads. The areas of drinking water and wastewater also had low grades of D+. There are reasons for concern and need for investment in all the areas evaluated in the report. A brief summary of the assessment follows.

Aviation infrastructure in Ohio received a grade of C-. Ohio ranks third in the nation with 124 paved and lighted general aviation airports. Only 58 percent of runways, 57 percent of taxiways, and 62 percent of aprons (the area where aircraft are parked, loaded, and unloaded) meet the satisfactory condition index. These percentages are below Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Office of Aviation established goals. Ohio’s commercial service airports are meeting capacity requirements. ODOT has estimated that $9.8 million a year is needed to maintain airports at their existing condition and an additional $117 million is required to provide improvements to meet the state systems goal that 85 percent of runways, 80 percent of taxiways, and 75 percent of aprons have a satisfactory rating.

Bridges in Ohio received a grade of B-. Bridges in Ohio are crucial components of one of the largest transportation systems in the United States. Many bridges in Ohio have reached their expected service life and are in need of rehabilitation or replacement. The council estimates that it would cost $3.6 billion to replace all the structurally deficient bridges and rehabilitate two-thirds of the functionally obsolete bridges in Ohio. This estimate does not include any design, roadway or land acquisition costs associated with these projects.

Dams in Ohio received a grade of C. There are more than 2,600 dams in the state of Ohio. Nearly 70 percent of dams are privately owned. There were 1,597 state-regulated dams in Ohio in 2007. Of the state-regulated dams, 33 percent are rated as being deficient. It is estimated that $309 million is required to make repairs to the 524 deficient dams in the state. As of 2007, 43 percent of Ohio’s high hazard dams had emergency action plans (EAP), a key measure in reducing the risk to the public. An EAP is a formal document that identifies potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies pre-planned actions to be followed to minimize property damage or loss of life in the event of a dam failure.

Drinking water infrastructure in Ohio received a grade of D+. Approximately 90 percent of Ohioans receive water for daily needs from one of the more than 6,000 public water supply systems in the state. An estimated 99 percent of the burden for funding public water supply is borne by the local government agency. ASCE estimates that Ohio has $9.68 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs. The Ohio EPA Division of Drinking and Ground Water estimates that drinking water stimulus project funds will total approximately $58.5 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As of April 2009, the Ohio EPA had received project funding requests for more than 1,400 projects for a total of $3 billion.

Electricity infrastructure in Ohio received a grade of C+. Electric generation, transmission, and distribution systems in Ohio are satisfactory, reliability problems are relatively few and those that exist are being addressed by system improvements. However, mandates related to alternative energy and environmental protection pose problems for Ohio’s electric utilities in the future. In 2008, the Ohio legislature passed a bill that requires that 12.5 percent of energy come from alternative energy sources (including renewable, conservation and clean thermal) by 2024. Furthermore, federal regulations may have a great impact on Ohio’s electric generating capacity, as approximately two-thirds of its electricity is provided by coal. There is a strong possibility that coal-fired generation will be required to drastically reduce CO2 emissions in the future, which could impose large financial burdens on its current system.

Parks and recreation infrastructure in Ohio received a grade of C-. Park systems in Ohio provide a crucial economic element in terms of jobs and financial impact. An additional $26.5 million is needed each year to properly operate the state parks and other divisions, and an additional $29.9 million is needed annually to eliminate the maintenance backlog over the next 10 to 20 years. These same needs are also being felt at the local levels as well. Facilities at many urban recreation centers are past their expected service life and are in need of repairs or at risk of being closed for health and safety reasons. A study by Ohio State University in 2004 stated that people visiting Ohio’s state parks alone contribute an estimated $1.1 billion to the state’s economy annually.

Railroads in Ohio received a grade of C-. Railroads provide critical services to industries important to Ohio’s economy, hauling raw materials, parts and finished products. Railroads are also an important industry in Ohio, employing more than 8,000 workers and paying approximately $500 million in wages in the state. ODOT has estimated that the cost to improve the 30 worst railroad choke points in the state would cost $1.19 billion. There are nearly 16,000 railroad crossings within the state. Since 1990, motor vehicle/train crashes at grade crossings have declined 66 percent and the number of fatalities has dropped 77 percent. However, between 2005 and 2008 there were still 482 accidents, including 45 fatalities. Columbus is the second largest and Dayton the sixth largest city in the U.S. without passenger rail services.

ads in Ohio received a grade of D.
With over 125,000 miles of roads, Ohio has one of the largest and most utilized roadway networks in the United States. ASCE found that 43 percent of Ohio’s roads are in critical, poor or fair condition. It is estimated that by the year 2014, Ohio will have a highway budget shortfall of more than $10 billion at the state government level alone. Congestion in the large urbanized areas in Ohio is getting worse. Each year, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) publishes a ranking of highway congestion in the 50 largest urban areas throughout the U.S., as ranked by hours of delay per person. In 2002, Columbus was ranked 41st nationally and was the only Ohio city included. By 2005, Columbus’ ranking rose to 34th, and Cincinnati and Cleveland joined Columbus as Ohio cities included on the list (ranked 40th and 49th, respectively).

School infrastructure in Ohio received a grade of C. The quality of schools in Ohio is crucial to the state’s long-term viability and ability to compete in the global marketplace. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) estimated in 2008 that Ohio schools require $9.32 billion in infrastructure investment. This ranks Ohio 6th in the country for total funds needed. The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) was created in 1997 as a separate state agency to oversee the rebuilding of Ohio’s public schools in 614 school districts. During the 1998-2007 fiscal years, the OSFC managed yearly appropriations across all its programs totaling $5.92 billion, or approximately $592 million per year. In 2007, the OSFC reported that all facility needs in 123 school districts have been fully addressed.

Wastewater infrastructure in Ohio received a grade of D+. Aging systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into U.S. surface waters each year. An estimated 95 percent of the burden for funding municipal wastewater treatment systems is borne by local government. It is estimated that Ohio has $11.16 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs. It is clear that operations, maintenance and capital investments in wastewater treatment facilities are not keeping up with the decaying infrastructure and the increasing demand placed on these facilities. Older systems that mingle storm and wastewater collection systems are plagued by chronic overflows during major rainstorms and heavy snowmelt, which results in the discharge of raw sewage into surface waters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that the volume of combined sewer overflows discharged nationwide is 850 billion gallons per year. According to the EPA, sanitary sewer overflows, caused by blocked or broken pipes, resulted in the release of as much as 10 billion gallons of raw sewage annually.

ASCE’s Board of Directors has been giving special attention to improving America’s infrastructure on several fronts, including championing the need for investments in infrastructure renewal with policy makers at the national, state and local level. As part of this effort, and to broaden the dialog on infrastructure renewal, ASCE has been encouraging its Sections and Branches to develop and promote Infrastructure Report Cards for their region, state and city or county. Sections and Branches can localize the national Report Card by focusing on infrastructure that is relevant to their region, state, or local area.


Top Three Infrastructure Concerns:

  1. Roads
  2. Bridges
  3. Drinking Water

Key Infrastructure Facts

  • 27 percent of Ohio’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
  • There are 375 high hazard dams in Ohio. A high hazard dam is defined as a dam whose failure would cause a loss of life and significant property damage.
  • 524 of Ohio’s 1,597 dams are in need of rehabilitation to meet applicable state dam safety standards.
  • 57 percent of high hazard dams in Ohio have no emergency action plan (EAP). An EAP is a predetermined plan of action to be taken including roles, responsibilities and procedures for surveillance, notification and evacuation to reduce the potential for loss of life and property damage in an area affected by a failure or mis-operation of a dam.
  • Ohio’s drinking water infrastructure needs an investment of $9.68 billion over the next 20 years.
  • Ohio ranked 5th in the quantity of hazardous waste produced and 3rd in the total number of hazardous waste producers.Ohio’s ports handled 124 million tons of waterborne traffic in 2005, ranking it 6th in the nation.
  • Ohio reported an unmet need of $3.3 million for its state public outdoor recreation facilities and parkland acquisition.
  • 25 percent of Ohio’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • 45 percent of Ohio’s major urban highways are congested.
  • Vehicle travel on Ohio’s highways increased 27 percent from 1990 to 2007.
  • Ohio has $11.16 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs.

To see the ASCE 2009 Report Card state-by-state assessment and how your state’s infrastructure measures up, click here.

Note: The Ohio Council of Local Sections of ASCE is the body that addresses statewide issues and shares ideas and practices from the six ASCE Sections in Ohio. The Ohio Council is composed of delegates elected annually from each of the six Sections: Akron/Canton, Central Ohio, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, and Toledo. The Ohio Council in 2008 formed a committee to prepare an Infrastructure Report Card for the State of Ohio. The 2009 Ohio Infrastructure Report Card is the result of that effort. Please access or print a copy of the 2009 Ohio Infrastructure Report Card by visiting the Ohio Council of Local Sections of ASCE website at

Bob Keaton

NAPA Hails New “Rough Roads” Report From AASHTO And TRIP

The National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) commended the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and The Road Information Program (TRIP) on their new joint report, Rough Roads Ahead: Fix Them Now or Pay For It Later. The publication documents that one-third of the nation’s major highways, including interstates, freeways, and major roads, are in poor or mediocre condition, and that roads in urban areas, which carry 66 percent of the traffic, are in much worse shape.

NAPA President Mike Acott praised the comprehensive, unbiased document and applauded its timing. “The nation is facing a host of challenges. As Congress sifts through these challenges and sets priorities, it is vital that our road and highway infrastructure be front and center. AASHTO and TRIP have done an outstanding job of identifying the problems and proposing solutions,” he said.

Driving on rough roads costs the average American motorist approximately $400 a year in extra vehicle operating costs, according to Rough Roads Ahead. Drivers living in urban areas with populations over 250,000 are paying upwards of $750 more annually because of accelerated vehicle deterioration, increased maintenance, additional fuel consumption, and tire wear caused by poor road conditions.

“The American people are paying for rough roads multiple times,” said Kirk T. Steudle, Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). “Rough roads lead to diminished safety, higher vehicle operating costs and more expensive road repairs. It costs $1 to keep a road in good shape for every $7 you would have to spend on reconstruction. It’s another drag on the economy.”

Acott said that the asphalt pavement industry has created a program aimed at supporting state Departments of Transportation in their efforts to maintain the highway system and improve pavement conditions. “This is a difficult time for DOTs. The need for good highways to power our economy has never been greater, yet funds for building and maintaining highways are very restricted and the outlook for future funding is uncertain.

“That’s why NAPA has put in place a six-point plan to assist DOTs in controlling costs and meeting the needs of the traveling public. We have developed, and continue to develop, educational materials and programs to help DOTs deploy the most cost-effective, sustainable highways possible,” he concluded.

NAPA’s six-point program for 2009 and beyond includes the following:

  • Thin overlays for pavement preservation
  • Increased levels of pavement reuse and recycling
  • Accelerated deployment of warm-mix asphalt
  • Accelerated deployment of Perpetual Pavements
  • Decreased costs over the entire life cycle of the pavement
  • Sustainable pavement technologies including porous asphalt

Note: The full report is available at: or AASHTO is the “Voice of Transportation” representing State Departments of Transportation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. A nonprofit, nonpartisan association, AASHTO serves as a catalyst for excellence in transportation. TRIP is a national highway research group based in Washington, DC. Rough Roads is part of Are We There Yet? We Can Be!, AASHTO’s effort to build awareness and support for the nation’s transportation system.

Greg Sitek

Daily Dirt

AEM Announces National Winners In Construction Challenge Student Competition

A high school team from the Dallas, TX area and a middle school team from Kansas City, MO are the top winners in the national Construction Challenge competition sponsored by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). Runner-up honors went to high school teams from Perry, OK and Oley, PA and middle school teams from New Carlisle,OH and Graham, WA.

More than 40 finalist teams participated in three separate challenges during the competition, which took place May 20-23, 2009 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville during the Global Finals competition of Destination ImagiNation (DI). DI is a challenge partner.

The student teams had qualified for the finals at one of 15 regional rallies held earlier in the year across the United States and Toronto, Canada. Since then, they had been designing, building and preparing for the national competition.


The students competed in these three challenges:

  • Challenge 1: Infrastructure PR Campaign – Teams researched local infrastructure issues in their communities, proposed infrastructure improvements, and held live PR events to develop community support.
  • Challenge 2: Manufacturing Design: Free Flow – Teams designed remote-controlled equipment to move materials to guide 300 gallons of water down a 32-foot course into a specific tank.
  • Challenge 3: Service Tech: Piling it On! – Teams engineered a modular remote-control piece of equipment to move and stack boxes in a head-to-head Challenge. Teams had to make two repairs on their equipment, one of which required the technician of the opposing team.

AEM, along with DI, developed the Construction Challenge to engage students through a hands-on, educational experience that introduces them to construction careers such as engineers, equipment technicians and manufacturing professionals.

“The Challenge participants brought creative problem-solving skills to real industry issues,” stated Dennis Slater, AEM’s president.

This is the second year of the Challenge, which debuted in 2008. For 2009, AEM added a middle school competition level and held the finals in conjunction with DI’s global finals in Knoxville. These updates helped contribute to the continued success of the event, noted Slater.

“We increased the level of participation and visibility of both the Challenge and our industry to the younger teams and the 10,000-plus students at the impressive Global Finals events. These were important steps forward for our workforce development efforts,” Slater said.

The AEM Construction Challenge program offers an opportunity for students, teachers, parents and community leaders to learn more about rewarding industry career paths, and the important role of construction equipment in creating and maintaining the high quality of life enjoyed in North America and Europe as well as by increasing numbers in the developing world.

First place finishers from the regional rallies had competition expenses covered by a construction industry corporate sponsor. Second and third-place regional rally teams could also compete at the national finals, covering their own expenses.

Construction Challenge 2009 Results

High School Overall Winners

1st Place Overall: Dallas, TX area high school students, sponsored by Kobelco Cranes North America, Inc. The students attend the following schools: Martin High School (Arlington), Richardson High School (Richardson), Pearce High School (Richardson) and Parkhill Jr. High School (Richardson).

2nd Place Overall: Perry High School, Perry, OK sponsored by Ditch Witch.

3rd Place Overall: Berks Career and Technical Center, Oley, PA, sponsored by Volvo Construction Equipment.

Middle School Overall Winners

1st Place Overall: St. Therese Catholic School (Team 2), Kansas City, MO. (The school sent two teams to the finals.)

2nd Place Overall: Tecumseh Middle School, New Carlisle, OH, sponsored by Astec Industries.

3rd Place Overall: Frontier Junior High School, Graham, WA sponsored by Atlas Copco Construction Tools LLC.

Congratulations to all the winners! Good Job!

Greg Sitek

APWA Testifies Before Congress on Levee Safety During National Public Works Week

Only a few weeks ago the nation was on a vigil for several days waiting to see if the levees would hold or if the floodwaters would rush over their tops and annihilate Fargo, ND. Remember the news coverage?

The U.S. has an estimated 100,000 miles of levees and 85 percent are locally owned and maintained. The reliability of many of these levees is unknown. Many are more than 50 years old and were originally built to protect crops from flooding. With an increase in development behind these levees, the risk to public health and safety from failure has increased. Rough estimates put the cost at more than $100 billion to repair and rehabilitate the nation’s levees. According to the 2009 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report Card, they score a D-.

In her opening remarks at the hearing on May 19 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Subcommittee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX, 30) stated that “today is the first step on how we address flood risk.” It is anticipated that there will be additional congressional hearings as this issue moves forward and will continue to be a hot topic for the 111th Congress. Currently, lawmakers and stakeholders are waiting for the National Committee on Levee Safety (NCLS) report to be released from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). It is expected that the report will be released from OMB this spring or early summer, and legislation to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program will also emerge shortly, thereafter.

American Public Works Association (APWA) member Andy Haney, Director of Public Works, City of Ottawa, KS, testified before the same Subcommittee to discuss the NCLS recommendations on how to create and implement the National Levee Safety Program. As a representative of the Review Team for the NCLS, Haney spoke on behalf of APWA and provided input on the proposed strategic plan for the National Levee Safety Program.

Haney focused on the economic impact that the National Levee Safety Program will have on local governments and its taxpayers who may not be receiving the necessary attention that is warranted. Specifically, APWA’s recommendations concerning the NCLS report addressed the following:

  • publicizing the anticipated costs to property owners for insuring properties against flood damage
  • modifying the threshold of lives at risk as a determinant of federal financial aid availability
  • placing a moratorium on the schedule relating to Provisional Accreditation Letters
  • charging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with overseeing the National Levee Safety Program
  • Reaching out to local elected officials organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities and National Association of Counties so that they might also share their perspective

This hearing was held during National Public Works Week (NPWW), a celebration of the tens of thousands of men and women in North America who provide and maintain the infrastructure and services collectively known as public works. The 2009 National Public Works Week theme is Renewal, Revitalization and Reinvestment.


Instituted as a public education campaign by the APWA in 1960, NPWW calls attention to the importance of public works, projects the government builds and maintains that specifically benefit the public in community life. Public Works departments deal with the nation’s infrastructure, all those things we take totally for granted. They construct and maintain public buildings, maintain our streets and provide water services – from safe drinking water to wastewater treatment.

Prime directives of public works are threefold:

  1. to maintain that which has been built and created for us by taxpayers of previous generations
  2. to create infrastructure that supports the needs of today (economic development needs)and provides a foundation for our children to grow their economic needs and quality of life upon as well
  3. utilize and advance technology in the way services are provided

National Public Works Week seeks to enhance the prestige of the often–unsung heroes of our society–the professionals who serve the public good every day with quiet dedication.

APWA encourages public works agencies and professionals to take the opportunity to make their stories known in their communities. Over the years, the observances have taken many forms, including parades, displays of public works equipment, high school essay contests, open houses, programs for civic organizations and media events. The occasion is marked each year with scores of resolutions and proclamations from mayors and governors, as well. Some special highlights of NPWW include a United States Senate resolution affirming the first National Public Works Week in 1960, letters of acknowledgment from Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson, and a Presidential Proclamation signed by John F. Kennedy in 1962.

National Public Works Week is observed each year during the third full week of May. Recently, the U.S. Senate passed S. Res. 145, proclaiming May 17-23, 2009, as National Public Works Week. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a companion resolution (H. Res. 313). The Senate resolution “recognizes and celebrates the important contributions that public works professionals make every day to improve the public infrastructure of the United States and the communities those professionals serve and urges citizens and communities throughout the United States to join with representatives of the Federal Government and the American Public Works Association in activities and ceremonies…to pay tribute to the public works professionals of the United States.”

Through NPWW and other efforts, APWA seeks to raise the public’s awareness of public works issues and to increase confidence in public works employees who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for present and future generations.

We are at a time in our country’s history when we can either create a plan for future growth that will make our founding fathers proud or we can let the rest of the world pass us by. One thing is certain, our public works agencies and professionals will play a critical role in our future. Without our pu
blic works, we would have a very dim future.

To all the people who have dedicated their lives and careers to the public works sector of our world, thank you! Your efforts and commitment deserve more than a week of recognition, you deserve special treatment all 52 weeks.

Greg Sitek

Rough Roads Ahead

America’s $1.75 trillion public highway system is in jeopardy. Years of wear and tear, non-stop traffic, an increased use of heavy trucks, deferred maintenance, harsh weather conditions, and rising construction costs have taken their toll on America’s roads.

Driving on rough roads costs the average American motorist approximately $400 a year in extra vehicle operating costs. Drivers living in urban areas with populations over 250,000 are paying upwards of $750 more annually because of accelerated vehicle deterioration, increased maintenance, additional fuel consumption, and tire wear caused by poor road conditions.

Rough Roads Ahead: Fix Them Now or Pay for It Later, a report released by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and The Road Information Program (TRIP), identifies the conditions of the nation’s major highways, costs to preserve the highway system, added costs to motorists due to poor pavement, and state solutions to shore up their highways. The report states that one-third of the nation’s major highways, including Interstates, freeways and major roads, are in poor or mediocre condition. Roads in urban areas, which carry 66 percent of the traffic, are in much worse shape.

Delayed and deferred maintenance leads to higher repair and reconstruction costs—pay me now or pay me more, lots more, later.

According to Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), “The American people are paying for rough roads multiple times. Rough roads lead to diminished safety, higher vehicle operating costs and more expensive road repairs. It costs $1 to keep a road in good shape for every $7 you would have to spend on reconstruction. It’s another drag on the economy.”

While the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) will provide $27 billion for highway projects, that money will barely make a dent in highway maintenance, preservation and reconstruction needs. The recent AASHTO Bottom Line report documented the need for all levels of government to invest $166 billion each year in highways and bridges. More than half of that amount would be needed for system preservation. “The federal stimulus program is providing a helpful down payment towards repairing some of the nation’s rough roads,” said Frank Moretti, TRIP’s director of Policy and Research. “But it will take a significant long-term boost in investment by all levels of government to provide Americans with a smooth ride.”

Saving America’s highways demands more than short- term stimulus funds and quick fixes based on available funding. It will require a greater and smarter investment of transportation dollars to ensure a new and better transportation program.


This report examines the condition of America’s roads and what it will take to save them:

What’s Wrong with Our Roads?
Killer potholes. In a flash they can dislodge a hubcap, shred a tire, or even worse, cause a driver to lose control of a car. But they can also be a symptom of a much deeper problem —deteriorating pavement that takes much more to repair than a simple patch.

As fundamental as our transportation system is to our daily lives, our highways and bridges are aging, under-funded and inadequate to meet the demands we place upon them today, much less the future. And across America motorists are paying the price.

For state departments of transportation, preserving the condition and performance of the transportation system we have built is the top priority.

In Pennsylvania, for example, work will begin later this year on more than 240 projects to repair and improve 608 miles of highway and 399 bridges. The projects will be financed with $1 billion in federal economic-stimulus money combined with about $2 billion in federal and state funds. This represents the most the Pennsylvania Transportation Department has ever committed to construction in a single year.

New technology, materials, and procedures are helping extend the life of our highways and bridges. States are also spending “smart” by making the investments needed to keep a road in good repair, rather than paying more later to address greater deterioration.

But the needs are enormous and poor-quality pavement is reflected in the increased operating costs that motorists must pay.

This report, developed by AASHTO in conjunction with TRIP, a national transportation research group, documents the preservation needs of the nation’s highways and the solutions that can be applied. As we look to the next authorization of federal-aid surface transportation programs, rebuilding and improving our nation’s core transportation structure must be a fundamental goal.

Allen D. Biehler
Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
President, AASHTO

Only half of the nation’s
major roads are in good condition, based on an analysis of recent Federal Highway Administration data. The situation is worse in high traffic, urban areas where one in four roads is in poor condition. In some major urban centers, more than 60 percent of roads are in poor condition.

The American public pays for poor road conditions twice — first through additional vehicle operating costs and then in higher repair and reconstruction costs. For the average driver, rough roads add $335 annually to typical vehicle operating costs. In urban areas with high concentrations of rough roads, extra vehicle operating costs can be as high as $746 annually.

Sustaining deteriorating roads costs significantly more over time than regularly maintaining a road in good condition. Costs per lane mile for reconstruction after 25 years can be more than three times the costs of preservation treatments over the same 25-year period.

Unrelenting traffic is tough on roads. Traffic growth has far outpaced highway construction, particularly in major metropolitan areas. The number of miles driven in this country jumped more than 41 percent from 1990 to 2007—from 2.1 trillion miles in 1990 to 3 trillion in 2007. Nearly 66 percent of that driving passed over urban roads, which are showing the most wear and tear. In some parts of the county, dramatic population growth has occurred without much of an increase in road capacity, placing enormous pressure on roads that, in many cases, were built 50 years ago.

Soaring construction costs during the past five years are straining state and local budgets. By the summer of 2008, asphalt prices were up 70 percent,
concrete 36 percent, and steel 105 percent. Diesel fuel, used to operate heavy construction equipment, soared 305 percent, including a 63 percent jump in one year. Over time, these higher costs have eroded states’ purchasing power on construction projects. In the past few months, however, the economic recession appears to have moderated some of these costs. In fact, many bids for stimulus projects are coming in below engineers’ estimates.

The explosion of freight truck traffic is punishing aging highways. The Interstate system is bearing the brunt of truck traffic and showing the impact. Today, on average, every mile of Interstate highway sees 10,500 trucks a day. More than 80 percent of freight tonnage moving across the United States is carried by trucks driving on the 50-year-old Interstate system.

Managing a highway system is like playing chess. You have to look at the whole board, the whole system, not just the next move. Sure we do reactive things, but our best strategy is when we look down the road eight years or more, look at every section of road, and budget to keep those roads in good condition.
—Gary Ridley, Director, Oklahoma Department of Transportation

Investment has not kept up with maintenance and preservation needs. Michigan DOT Director Kirk L. Steudle said, “It is important to slow the rate of decline in the good road so that it stays in good shape rather than slipping into fair or poor condition.” But soaring construction costs, tight budgets, and increasing needs make it hard for states to sustain preservation programs. That is why most states are using their stimulus funds to make up for lost time from deferred maintenance and preservation.

Highway Maintenance Needs Exceed Available Funds
Keeping good roads in good condition is the most cost-effective way to save America’s highways. But the needs are high and the available funding limited. For example:

  • Oregon needs $200 million annually over the next 10 years to maintain roads at the current levels. It has $130 million available annually.
  • Texas needs $73 billion during the next 22 years to maintain current conditions. The Department is spending $900 million per year and losing ground.
  • Rhode Island needs $640 million annually to preserve its highway system and has only $354 million available each year.

Stimulus funds will fill in some of the gaps.

  • Oregon will use half of its $224 million of stimulus funds for pavement resurfacing and preservation projects.
  • Texas is spending $800 million in stimulus funds to stabilize pavement and bridge conditions for the next few years.
  • Rhode Island will use its $137 million primarily for preservation and maintenance projects. The extra funds provide about 5 percent of the projected shortfall in preservation funds over the next 10 years.
  • South Dakota’s stimulus allocation will provide about one year’s worth of preservation funding to help with the backlog of needs.

Strategies For Saving America’s Highways
Use the best materials throughout the life of a road. From filling a pothole to reconstructing a major highway, using materials designed to meet specific climate and traffic conditions will extend the service life of a road and reduce costs over the long run. Research into new materials, constant monitoring of pavement conditions, and matching materials to traffic and weather conditions all contribute to long-term durability of a road.

Keep good roads good. Maintaining a road in good condition is easier and less expensive than repairing one in poor condition. Achieving that goal involves a carefully planned and consistently funded pavement preservation program that makes proactive improvements in good roads to keep them good. “You can spend too much time and money chasing after potholes while watching the system fall farther and farther behind,” said Pennsylvania DOT Secretary Allen Biehler.

Create a Multi-Modal Freight Strategy. Ensuring that roads can handle the projected growth in freight bearing trucks involves more than building sturdier roads. It will require a commitment to a multi-modal freight strategy that may include: (1) building a network of dedicated truck lanes; (2) expanding rail capacity to sustain its share of freight movement; (3) fixing bottlenecks and reducing congestion in metropolitan areas; (4) improving conditions from ports and distribution centers to the Interstate and rail systems; and (5) a funding model that includes freight-related user fees to implement the strategy.

View highways as public assets to be managed rather than projects to be fixed. Asset management is a comprehensive approach to ensuring the most cost-effective return on investments for operating, maintaining, upgrading, and expanding transportation systems. It starts from the assumption that the nearly 4 million miles of public roads are a valuable national asset, essential to the vitality of the American economy.

Invest to save America’s highways. When the Interstate system was first designed in the 1940s, lines were put on a map to describe the vision for a country connected by a network of limited access highways. “Planners said this is what we want it to look like. Now let’s figure out how to pay for it,” said Oklahoma DOT Director Ridley. “Now we work in the reverse. We say here’s how much money we have, and let’s decide what we want to do with that. That approach doesn’t produce the best decisions.” Rebuilding for the future requires a national commitment to significant and sustained investment in transportation infrastructure based on a vision of what we want our transportation system to look like in the 21st century and beyond.

It is time for a greater and smarter investment of transportation dollars to ensure a new and better transportation program.

Are we there yet? No—but we can be.

We as stewards of the transportation system have no choice but to drive home the message that maintaining an acceptable condition for our highways—preserving the system—is vital to our country’s future.
Allen D. Biehler, AASHTO President; Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Highways to Everywhere

A well-connected highway system, maintained in good condition, is critical to the nation’s economy. With a current value of $1.75 trillion, preserving the system of roads and highways so they last for generations and meet changing needs should be a top priority for all levels of government. Even with continued growth in public transit, enhanced rail services, and a national commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, roads remain a vital component of the system that moves people and goods throughout the country.

Roads are essential to everyday life.

  • Nearly 24 million children—55 percent of the country’s kindergarten through high school population—ride 450,000 school buses 180 days per year.
  • Every year, 50,000 ambulances make 60 million trips—that is an
    average of 164,000 trips per day.
  • A fire department responds in one or more vehicles to a fire alarm in the United States every 20 seconds.
  • Trucks in the United States carry 32 million tons of goods valued at $25 billion every day.
  • The country’s 240 million registered vehicles travel more than 2.9 trillion miles annually.

Those vehicles and the people who drive and ride in them, rely on the nation’s nearly 4 million miles of public roads—from Interstate highways to neighborhood streets—to get somewhere to do something.

Highways are a backbone of American life connecting people, goods, and services. But many roads, particularly in metropolitan areas and population growth centers, are in poor condition.

Despite the recent downturn in travel in 2008, the number of miles driven on the nation’s roadways has increased 41 percent from 1990 to 2007. Large commercial truck traffic, which places significant stress on pavements, has increased 50 percent during the same timeframe.

In some parts of the country, dramatic population growth with minimal capacity expansion has placed enormous pressure on highways. For example, in Utah, between 1990 and 2007, population grew by 47 percent and miles driven by 71 percent—but highway capacity grew by only 4 percent.

Transportation officials across the country are focusing on how to preserve and protect their part of this national asset by building smarter, investing in systematic maintenance programs, and using new technologies to produce longer-lasting roads.

Quick Facts:

  • One-third of the nation’s highways – interstates, freeways and major roads – are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • More than one-quarter of major urban roads, which carry the brunt of national traffic, are in poor condition.
  • Major urban centers have the roughest roads – more than 60 percent of the roads in the greater Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco-Oakland, Honolulu and Washington, DC, areas offer a poor ride.
  • Rough roads add an average of $335 to the annual cost of owning a car – in some cities an additional $740 more – due to damaged tires, suspensions and reduced fuel efficiency.
  • Every $1 spent in keeping a good road good precludes spending $6-$14 to rebuild one that has deteriorated.

Total miles of public roads—3,967,159

Total miles of roads by ownership

  • Federal—128,378 miles (3.2 percent)
  • State—783,643 miles (19.8 percent)
  • Local—3,055,138 miles (77 percent)

Total miles of rural and urban roads

  • Rural – 2,939,042 (74 percent)
  • Urban – 1,028,107 (26 percent)

Total Interstate Highway miles—47,000
Annual miles driven in cars and trucks—2.9 trillion
Percent of miles driven on urban roads—65.6 percent
Tons of freight moved on America’s highways annually—15 billion

Earliest known paved American road—Pemaquid, Maine
1795 First engineered American road— Philadelphia to Lancaster toll turn-
1823 First macadam road constructed in America—Maryland
1872 First asphalt paved roads in North America—Pennsylvania Avenue in
Washington, DC, and Fifth Avenue in New York, NY
1893 First rural brick road—Ohio
1906 First bituminous macadam road— Rhode Island Hammond Surface Streets,
Hammond, Indiana

Note: The full report is available at: or AASHTO is the “Voice of Transportation” representing State Departments of Transportation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. A nonprofit, nonpartisan association, AASHTO serves as a catalyst for excellence in transportation. TRIP is a national highway research group based in Washington, DC. Rough Roads is part of Are We There Yet? We Can Be!, AASHTO’s effort to build awareness and support for the nation’s transportation system.

Greg Sitek