Our infrastructure needs updating, but some states are faring worse than others.
It’s no secret that America’s roads and bridges are desperate need of some updating. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card gave America’s infrastructure a D+ grade overall, a D for its roads and a C+ for its bridges.
According to the report, 1 out of every 5 miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and 9.1 of all bridges were structurally deficient in 2016. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration’s list of deficient bridges shows that 54,560 of the nation’s 615,002 bridges exhibit structural deficiencies.
Of course, if you’ve ever driven on roads in Massachusetts or New Jersey, you know the situation is worse in some states than others. U.S. News & World Report recently released its Best States rankings, and one of the factors considered was transportation, including bridge and road quality, commute time and use of public transit. Drilling down into roads and bridges, here are the big winners and losers from those rankings.
Best states for roads
- (1st) Georgia
- (2nd) North Dakota
- (3rd) Wyoming
- (4th) Oregon
- (5th) Tennessee
Worst states for roads
- (46th) Massachusetts
- (47th) New Jersey
- (48th) Hawaii
- (49th) California
- (50th) Rhode Island
Best states for bridges
- (1st) Nevada
- (2nd) Texas
- (3rd) Florida
- (4th) Arizona
- (5th) Utah
Worst states for bridges
- (46th) West Virginia
- (47th) South Dakota
- (48th) Pennsylvania
- (49th) Iowa
- (50th) Rhode Island
All told, our highways and bridges face an $808.2 billion backlog of investment needs, including $479.1 billion in critical repair work, per the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If the infrastructure investment gap is not addressed by 2025, the United States is expected to lose nearly $4 trillion in GDP and 2.5 million jobs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ study Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future.
At the current pace of bridge repair and replacement, it would take 37 years to fix the nation’s structurally deficient bridges, noted Alison Premo Black, chief economist for American Road & Transportation Builders Association, in a press release.
Some states are closing bridges before they cause harm. Mississippi’s governor recently ordered the immediate closure of 102 bridges that were judged deficient. The action was prompted by the Federal Highway Administration, which warned that if the bridges were not closed immediately, Mississippi would be in danger of losing access to federal funds, according to Mississippi Today.
In lieu of federal funding, some states are exploring public-private partnerships, aka P3s, to fund local infrastructure projects. A handful are instituting mileage-based user fee pilot programs. Others are ratcheting up their gas taxes and user fees.
The needs will only grow as the increasing population puts greater and greater demands on an aging system designed to serve less traffic, not more.
Carol Brzozowski is an independent journalist who covers infrastructure issues for trade journals.
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