Thanks to an aging interstate highway system and other factors, the Obama administration is set to chuck out a bill in the coming weeks which would provide $87 billion to repair aging federally funded highway projects over the next four years. Why is this happening now? We think there are a couple of big factors, one is that the interstate highway system was largely implemented over 60 years ago, there’s a fuel tax that no longer pays to cover the money being spent on these projects, and that useage has not exactly decreased.
There are short term consumables like pavement that last for a short time under good conditions (no ice/snow etc.), but 60 years is smack dab in the middle of the anticipated service life of bridges, which are significantly more expensive per foot to replace than the regular “mill and fill” paving projects that we see on a regular basis. New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge is a prime example on the larger end of the spectrum: due to the importance of this transportation link, the new bridge will be built using the rather costly ‘design-build’ delivery method (design and construction are concurrent); the first span will open up in 2016 and the project is set to be completed in 2018. How much? Nearly $4 billion.
Another example of a significant cost that hasn’t been addressed sharply by the feds is highway widening; the cost of designing, permitting, and implementing these projects consists of many years and many tax dollars. New Hampshire, for example, is in the process of working to levy a 4 cent gasoline tax for the same reasons that the Feds are trying to raise more funds, which will send money to crumbling municipal bridges throughout the state, and throw about $200,000,000 towards widening Interstate 93 in a southern section of the state.
The federal issue will likely be a pretty contentious one, particularly for those on the right as the Obama administration is interested in levying higher fines (up from $35 million to $300 million) to automakers who delay recalls and removing tax breaks for certain businesses.
-By: Sawyer Sutton