Innovative approaches the answer to get transport to good state of repair?

With statements like:

  • “Among all sectors, the transport sector is the only one in which emissions are continuing to increase in spite of all the technological advances. …The alarming performance of the transport sector is largely due to road traffic, which accounts for 73% of global transport emissions”1
  • “So far this year, 61 of America’s Top 100 Worst Traffic cities have experienced increased traffic congestion. This is a dramatic shift from 2012, where only six cities experienced increases and 94 saw decreases”2
  • “That congestion costs the economy an estimated $101 billion annually in wasted time and fuel”3

…, from this how a person could not infer that American roadway infrastructure is heading inMUTCD_R5-1a.svg[2] the wrong direction and how at the same time a person could not think “serious improvement is needed” or “much work needs to be done” or “so much more can and should be done,” would truly be beyond me. As for myself, I understand the gravity of the situation. I also know all too well how conditions got this way.

Wrong way

There is little question as to the direction taken and the direction taken, since about the late 1930s, has pretty much been a one-way street.

The Center for Clean Air Policy’s (CCAP) Greg Dierkers, Erin Silsbe, Shayna Stott, Steve Winkelman and Mac Wubben in “CCAP Transportation Emissions Guidebook – Part One: Land Use, Transit & Travel Demand Management,” provide additional background. They write:

“Patterns of urban growth characteristic of post WWII North American development have created cities and regions that are centered upon and are dependent on the car to meet transportation needs. Located largely at the urban fringe, this pattern of suburban, or greenfield, development is typically dominated by housing-only enclaves consisting of single family homes with two-car garages and a hierarchical road system (with one way in and out). Here, land use functions are isolated (residential, commercial, employment), origins and destinations are farther apart, infrastructure design is oriented toward the automobile, and low population densities are not conducive to public transportation. With the automobile as the only realistic transportation mode for suburbanites in these sprawling communities, commuters are faced with increased driving distances and increased congestion. All told, this pattern of growth has resulted in deteriorating urban air quality and human health, increased emissions of greenhouse gases, limited transportation and housing choice, inefficient use of infrastructure, and communities that are less able to meet the needs of their residents.”

I could not agree more.

Fork in the road

Getting conditions returned to a state of good repair, however, won’t be easy nor will doing the necessary work to achieve such an outcome come cheaply.

As a matter of fact and as it relates, “The [American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013] Report Card [for America’s Infrastructure] estimates total investment needs at $3.6 trillion by 2020 across all 16 sectors, leaving a funding shortfall of $1.6 trillion based on current funding levels,” the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) emphasized, further pointing out that, “Updated once every four years, this year’s Report Card found that America’s cumulative GPA [Grade Point Average] for infrastructure rose slightly to a D+ from a D in 2009.”

This then begs the question where available monies should be spent.

If the past is any indication, regarding federal infrastructure spending, roads and highways will be the biggest winners.

An innovative approach

One bright spot though, is this.

In a May 6, 2013 Denver Post article it was pointed out that a new Colorado state law allows for city and county tax dollars to be spent on transportation projects outside the traditional ones – bridges and roads.

Correspondent Monte Whaley in “Colorado road money can now be used on transit projects,” in elaborating further, wrote: “This means communities for the first time can use their share of the $250 million pot of money made up of state fuel sales taxes and license plate fees — known as the Highway Users Tax Fund, or HUTF — on bike and pedestrian lanes and bridges, bus purchases, rail-station construction and other transit-friendly projects.

“Previously, HUTF could be used only to build and patch roads and bridges.”

Could this be the start of something innovative, extraordinary? It could very well be.

On that note and as for an ASCE “2017 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” grade of C- (or better), here’s hoping.

Notes:

  1. High Speed Rail and Sustainability, International Union of Railways, Nov. 2011, p. 15.
  2. “Key Findings: 2012-2013 INRIX Traffic Scorecard Annual Report: Introduction,” Traffic Scorecard, INRIX, http://scorecard.inrix.com/scorecard/summary.asp.
  3. “America’s Infrastructure GPA Inches Up to a D+ on National Report Card,” American Society of Civil Engineers, press release, Mar. 19, 2013, http://www.asce.org/Press-Releases/2013/America’s-Infrastructure-GPA-Inches-Up-to-a-D–on-National-Report-Card.

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