It is an accepted premise that traffic congestion wastes time, money, gas and leads to air being polluted more. Many approaches have been tried as ways to deal with such negative-consequence attributes or characteristics associated with transportation.
Methods such as freeway expansion (road-widening) schemes, new roadway construction, congestion pricing, rail-based transit deployment, telecommuting or teleworking (work-from-home) implementation strategies, changing the work hours so that those commuting to and from are not doing so during times of peak demand, etc., etc., etc., have all been employed.
Yet, even with all of these approaches, the so-called “negative side effects” of surface transportation still haunt those of us who regularly find ourselves caught in the throes of such.
In the meantime, transportation infrastructure has found itself between a rock and a hard place meaning there is a tremendous backlog of maintenance waiting.
As it happens, back in mid-spring, in the “New report chronicles how the nation’s road conditions have worsened as many states prioritize expansion instead of repair” press release, Transportation for America announced: “Repair Priorities 2019, a new report released [May 14, 2019] by Transportation for America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, shows that, despite more spending, the percentage of the roads nationwide in ‘poor condition’ increased from 14 percent to 20 percent and 37 states saw the percentage of their roads in poor condition increase from 2009-2017.”
“… Given increasing spending flexibility by Congress over the last two long-term transportation reauthorizations,” the organization writes, “states spent nearly as much money expanding their road networks as they did repairing their existing roads ($120 billion spent building new lane-miles from 2009 to 2014).”
If all transportation-allocated monies went into work to repair our roadway network exclusively, what could be reasonably expected where reducing the backlog of needed roadway maintenance is concerned?
Here is what Transportation for America had to offer: “… Repair Priorities estimates that we would need to spend more than $231 billion per year just to keep our existing road network in acceptable repair and bring the backlog of roads in poor condition into good repair over a six-year period (the typical length of a federal transportation reauthorization). By comparison, all highway capital expenditures across all government units in 2015 totaled just $105.4 billion, only a portion of which goes to repair.”
And added, “The latest available data shows states have made some improvement in their spending since the first edition of Repair Priorities in 2011 …. States spent $21.4 billion on average on road repair annually between [sic] 2009-2014 and $21.3 billion annually on road expansion.”
There were four Transportation-for-America-and-Taxpayers-for-Common-Sense-provided recommendations put forth in the release “… for Congress to consider in any infrastructure package they consider, including the upcoming 2020 federal transportation bill.” They are: “Congress should: guarantee measurable outcomes for American taxpayers with any new funding, require that states repair their existing systems before expanding, require project sponsors to demonstrate that they can afford to maintain new roadway capacity projects, and track progress and require that [the Federal Highway Administration] publish results.”
So, the question of the hour is: If any or all of which are followed through on, could such have an air-remedying effect? The answer is yes, but it is conditional: it depends on what project achieves what and where.
The long and short of it is, if greater efficiencies result, then sure.
And, where does that leave alternatives to roadway transportation?
This is to be explored in Part 2.
Images: Snr. László Szalai (upper)