America’s Transportation System Needs More than Love

Janet Kavinoky, Executive Director, Transportation & Infrastructure at U.S. Chamber of Commerce; ATM Vice President

According to John, Paul, George and Ringo – All you need is love; love is all you need. And Charles M Schultz of The Peanuts fame took it a bit further when he said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Love and chocolate may be all you need at home, but, America’s transportation systems needs a lot more than love. And the only purpose chocolate serves when you’re stuck in traffic is if you consume it might ease your frustration.

bridge heart

I love a well-designed bridge – it can even rise to the level of being called a work of art. I love driving down a smooth road with the windows down on a warm, sunny day. I love being able to take the bus or metro to work, so I can be part of the solution to congestion, rather than being part of the problem.

But I know that my love for these transportation-related things only goes so far; America’s highway and public transit systems are increasingly crumbling, outdated, atrophying, worsening and, yes, dangerous, and reading them a sonnet or giving them a bouquet of flowers won’t change these facts:

  • According to the American Society of Civil Engineers our nation’s roads get a D+.
  • There are 10,000 70+ year old bridges in the U.S. that are still bearing thousands of tons of freight and people every day; 63,500 remain structurally deficient.
  • Of the approximately 33,000 highway fatalities that occur annually, 10,000 of those occur because of poor road conditions; bridge collapses also cost lives.
  • Since 1950, the population of the U.S. has more than doubled but the road system grew only from 3.3 million miles to 4.1 million miles.
  • The Interstate Highway System is 70 years old; roads should last 30 years. • Deficient surface transportation costs $1,060 each year per household.
  • The number of motor vehicles in the United States has quadrupled from around 65 million at the start of the Interstate in 1956 to 254 million in 2012 and freight ton miles are expected to grow 72 percent from 2015 to 2040.
  • According to the ASCE Failure to Act economic studies, “deteriorating infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 867,000 jobs in 2020 and suppress the growth of our GDP by $897 billion by 2020.

The condition, quality and safety of America’s highways, bridges and overpasses are not sufficient and need to be improved – and in many cases even rebuilt — for the prosperity and safety of future generations. Fixing the system will take Congressional support beginning with re-authorization of MAP-21 this year; and I don’t see any way around the fact that it will take an increase in the federal fuel tax – something that hasn’t happened in 20 years. So this Valentine’s Day, spread your love to Congress and urge them to support the Highway Trust Fund and romance America’s transportation system. And feel free to send any spare chocolate around your house my way.

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