Major Investments Needed to Rebuild TX Interstates

 

The Interstate Highway System, America’s most critical transportation link, is 64 years old and will need to be rebuilt and expanded to meet the nation’s growing transportation needs, according to a report by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit.


Texas has been actively rebuilding and widening sections of the interstate system in the state for the past 25 years to deal with growth and with an aging system that has taken a pounding over its long life.


The TRIP report looks at the interstate system’s use, condition and benefits plus the findings of a 2019 federal report prepared by the Transportation Research Board (TRB). Data for all states is presented and ranked by congestion levels, increased miles of travel since 2000, commercial truck volumes, pavement and bridge conditions and fatality rates.


Vehicle miles traveled on the 3,460 miles of interstate highways in Texas increased by 45% over the period from 2000 to 2018. That compares to a national increase of 25% over those years.


According to the TRB report, the U.S. Interstate system has a persistent and growing backlog of physical and operational deficiencies as a result of age, heavy use and deferred reinvestment, and is in need of major reconstruction and modernization. The TRB report concludes that annual investment in the Interstate Highway System should be increased approximately two-and-a-half times, from $23 billion in 2018 to $57 billion annually over the next 20 years.


ADDRESSING UNDER-INVESTMENT IN HIGHWAYS
Restoring and upgrading the Interstate Highway System will require strong federal leadership and a robust federal-state partnership. The current federal surface transportation program, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST Act), the primary source of Interstate highway funding, expires on September 30th and the reauthorization of a new long-term, reliably funded federal program will be needed to ensure the restoration of the Interstate system.


Victor Boyer, chairman of the Transportation Advocates of Texas, stressed the need for Congress to focus on an increased federal investment in highways.


“The TRIP report confirms that much work remains to address congestion and safety issues on our highway system. While the State of Texas has made significant investments in our state’s highway system in recent years, it is important that Congress act soon to address historic under-investment in our nation’s infrastructure. Such investment can provide jobs, lead economic recovery, and result in legacy projects that will provide economic benefits for generations to come.”


The TRIP report found that since 2000, travel on the U.S. Interstate system has increased at a rate nearly triple that at which new lane capacity is being added. In Texas, 56% of urban Interstate highways are considered congested during peak hours. 14% of Interstate travel in Texas is by trucks hauling freight.


“The United States cannot afford to wait any longer to make the investments necessary to address systemic and growing problems stemming from decades of neglect,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “It is past time for elected officials to provide sufficient and sustainable funding for Interstate highway improvements.”


TRIP’s report finds that while pavement smoothness on most segments of the U.S. Interstate system is acceptable, the crumbling foundations of most highway segments need to be reconstructed. As the aging system’s foundations continue to deteriorate, most Interstate highways, bridges and interchanges will need to be rebuilt or replaced.


TRIP has provided a set of recommendations for the restoration of the Interstate Highway System, including: the foundational reconstruction of Interstate highways, bridges and interchanges; improvement to roadway safety features; system right-sizing, including upgrading of some roadway corridors to Interstate standards; adding needed additional highway capacity on existing routes; adding additional interstate corridors; and, modifying some urban segments to maintain connectivity while remediating economic and social disruption.

 

You can download the TRIP report HERE.

 

July 2020