Drivers, Governments Waste Billions Due to Misguided Highway Policies

For Immediate Release

Drivers, Governments Waste Billions Due to Misguided Highway Policies

WASHINGTON - Special interest lobbying,
policies that favor new construction over repairs, and the appeal of
ribbon-cuttings push America to build new highways and bridges faster
than it
keeps up older ones.

The result? A crumbling infrastructure, with
45
percent of the nation's roads - 80 percent in metropolitan areas - in
"less
than good" condition and 71,000 bridges deemed "structurally
insufficient."

The result for American motorists? An
average of $335
extra in repairs due to highways and bridges in disrepair - that's $67
billion
per year.

Wednesday, the U.S.
Public Interest Research
Group
released a new report,  Road Work Ahead -
Holding Government Accountable for Fixing America's Crumbling Roads and
Bridges
,
which strongly criticizes federal and state policies and calls
for
profound policy shifts with strong "fix-it first" rules that give
priority to
maintenance of our existing roads and bridges, that set national goals
for the
condition of our transportation system, and that hold state governments
accountable for achieving results.

"This report calls into question our
nation's
transportation priorities," said Phineas
Baxandall, Senior Analyst for Tax & Budget
Policy
and one of the report's authors. "Right now, we are
wasting
scarce resources and spending billions on new lanes and superhighways
instead
of preserving existing roadways that need repair.  It's like adding a
guest room on your home when the roof is leaking."

Road Work Ahead describes how and why America's roads and
bridges
are in disrepair, bringing together a wide variety of statistics and
sources
with state-by-state analysis. It shows how special interest pressure
tilts the
playing field toward the construction of new and ever-wider highways at
the
expense of repair and maintenance.

For example, Road Work Ahead
points out
that vast amounts of money is pushed out to the states through federal
programs
with little direction or accountability, and that Congressional earmarks
further tilt spending away from maintenance.

State transportation funding policies are
often
similarly short-sighted, the report notes.  States generally award major
new construction contracts to outside contractors, many of whom lobby
for such
projects. Routine maintenance and repairs, by contrast, tend to be
performed by
in-house staff who lack outside influence.

Politicians can be susceptible to these
pressures
because they garner positive political attention from ribbon cuttings
for new
projects, and mainly hear complaints about closing roads for repair and
maintenance, according to the report.

"While some transportation officials still
call for
prioritizing new highways, that is a decades-old approach that hasn't
woken up
to the reality of limited resources and an immense backlog of repair and
maintenance on our existing roads and bridges," Baxandall pointed out.

Click
here read the
executive summary and to download the entire PDF of Road Work
Ahead
.

Read
Baxandall's
column in The
Huffington Post - "Fixing Our Shiny
New Toys"

###

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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