Three principles America should implement for better infrastructure investment

Oct. 14, 2019

Transportation-advocacy group Transportation for America is calling Congress to prioritize maintenance, safety and job access in highway bills. 


Transportation-advocacy group Transportation for America is calling Congress to prioritize maintenance, safety and job access in highway bills. 

Every year, Congress invests about $40 billion into the nation's highways, bridges and road projects. The D.C.-based group Transportation for America, which includes planners, elected leaders and government officials who work in transportation fields, wants federal transportation officials to stop increasing transportation funding, and instead prioritize the maintenance of existing roads, street design that keeps pedestrians and alternative-transportation users (like cycling or scooters) safe, and a public transit system that ensures people have access to jobs and housing.

During a webinar Wednesday, Transportation for America director Beth Osborne spoke on the importance of the federal government to change their priorities.

"What we have right now has resulted in worsening road conditions, very slow improvement in overall national bridge conditions, increased fatalities and serious injury on our roadways," Osborne said. "We are unsatisfied with this very, very poor outcome."

More details on each principle can be read below.

Prioritize maintenance

Rather than investing in new roads, the advocacy group asks the federal government to dedicate its formula highway funding to cutting the country's road maintenance backlog in half before paying for any new projects, which would take about six years.

"In addition, when building new road capacity, agencies should be required to create a plan for maintaining both the new road and the rest of their system," the principles report said.

Design for safety over speed

Currently, states set specific speed limits for various roadways. Depending on the street type, speed limits range from 20 mph to 45 mph on roads and 55 to 75 mph for highways.

Transportation for America says Congress should instead mandate road designs with safety, instead of speed, as the priority, which may mean lowering speeds to 35 mph or less on roads other than highways and interstates.

"Protecting the safety of all people who use the street must be a priority reflected in the decisions we make about how to fund, design, operate, maintain, and measure the success of our roads," the report said.

Connect people to jobs and services

Transportation is useful when it connects people to where they want to go. With this in mind, Transportation for America wants Congress to require the U.S. Department of Transportation to collect data to assess how Americans access housing and jobs and prioritize public transit funding to move people between work, services and home efficiently.

"We need to reform the 70-year-old federal program to reflect today's needs," the Transportation for America press release for the new principles said. According to Osborne, congressmen and women seem to be willing for change in America's transportation system.

"I will say that since I got here 20-plus years ago, I've never seen a caucus in D.C. that's super excited to talk about outcomes," Osborne said. "This group is really different and new. I think the time just might be right to think and do something a little bit differently."

Heather Leighton


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