The nation continues to face an infrastructure funding crisis, one year after the tragic collapse of the I-35 W bridge in Minneapolis, Minn. States are increasingly unable to address pressing transportation needs as construction materials costs continue to rise and without any corresponding state or national funding increases.
The problem could be made worse next year when the U.S. DOT may be forced to slash highway funds to states by a minimum of 34 percent because revenue into the federal Highway Trust Fund is not adequate to sustain the program.
“In Oregon, that translates into a $139 million cut in funding,” said Michael Salsgiver, executive director, Associated General Contractors Oregon-Columbia Chapter. “Couple that with the news from the Oregon Department of Transportation that 1,669 bridges in Oregon are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and it is obvious that we have reached a crisis stage. We cannot wait any longer to tackle our growing infrastructure needs.”
In 2007, the U.S. Congress provided an additional one-time boost of $1 billion for states to address bridge needs, which translated into about $18 million for Oregon. Estimates show that the problems are much more far-reaching—with many states facing budgetary crises and implementing cutbacks in transportation investment—and that the entire national system still needs an infusion of $65 billion to repair or replace the significant number of bridges that are fifty years or older.
On Monday, American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials (AASHTO) released a report saying that 20 percent of our nation’s bridges are more than 50 years old. With an average age of 43 years old, it will cost $140 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s 600,000 bridges.
State transportation budgets are also struggling to deal with the rising prices of construction materials—asphalt has more than doubled since the beginning of 2008, with increases of as much as 40 percent announced in many regions since July 1; on-highway diesel fuel costs have risen 68 percent in the past 12 months; reinforcing steel (rebar) has roughly doubled since the beginning of 2008; and the price of construction plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe and plastic fencing and moisture barriers, have risen 10-25 percent since early 2008.