The nation continues to face an infrastructure funding crisis, one year after the 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 Delaware, that translates into a $46 million cut in funding,” said John McMahon, executive vice president, Delaware Contractors Association. “This cut will impact federally supported projects and place greater stress on an already underfunded state transportation trust fund. 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 $3 million for Delaware. 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 July 28, AASHTO released a report saying that 20 percent of the 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 also are 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 to 25 percent since early 2008.