Our nation’s streets and highways are failing to perform their function as a safe and efficient transportation system. Most fail to meet existing safety standards and some are so obsolete or deteriorated that they present a clear and present danger to the driving public. One glaring example is the thousands of structurally deficient bridges, many of which are in imminent danger of collapse.
Highway accidents, in addition to causing pain and suffering, result in direct costs (damage, medical care, lost wages, etc.) of approximately $300 billion per year. Although poor driving behavior is the major cause of traffic accidents, highway deficiencies are a contributing factor in the causation and costs of a significant percentage of those crashes attributed solely to driver error.
Insufficient capacity in our major cities and on many of our rural freeways has resulted in traffic congestion that creates driver frustration, irritation and road rage, often leading to really bad driving decisions that result in traffic collisions. In addition to accident costs, congestion-caused delays result in added pollution, fuel waste, increased commuting time, and increased costs for trucking and other commercial activities. The estimated cost of this congestion is now well in excess of $100 billion per year and is rapidly growing.
Any significant alleviation of this traffic congestion problem requires expanding maintenance programs, upgrading substandard roadways, building new freeways, and adding mass transportation.
Failure to meaningfully address the needs of our highway system will continue to lead to deaths and injuries, and to traffic gridlock, making many cities virtually unlivable.
Addressing our failing transportation infrastructure will, of course, be very expensive, but does not pose an insurmountable economic problem as evidenced by similar undertakings in the past. The unprecedented economic cost of the World War II industrial effort did not bankrupt the country, but instead lifted us out of a depression and created the leading economy in the world. In the 1950’s President Eisenhower initiated the development of the hugely expensive Interstate Highway System that not only improved the safety and efficiency of long-distance travel, but also provided a major boost to the economy by improving interstate commerce and creating thousands of jobs. One important benefit of a major highway infrastructure improvement program is that most of these jobs cannot be out-sourced.
Rebuilding and maintaining our highway system can provide a blueprint for similar efforts to rescue other failing areas of our country’s infrastructure, such as the water supply, sewage treatment, waste disposal, gas and oil transmission lines, energy production facilities, railways, and the electrical grid.
More information on related topics can be found in Highway Accidents: Investigation, Reconstruction and Causation available at: Amazon.com. Information about the book and author is available at: www.bmorrow.com.