The US Interstate Highway System is over 50 years old and operating well beyond its design life. Many highway segments have been more heavily trafficked than anticipated and are therefore in major need of repairs.
Congress asked the Transportation Research Board to conduct a study on the Interstate System and create recommendations on federal investment and policy decisions. Congress asked the committee to make recommendations on the “features, standards, capacity needs, application of technologies, and intergovernmental roles to upgrade the Interstate System” and to advise on any changes in law and resources required to further the recommended actions.
Some interesting challenges of the current Interstate System:
- The pavement used to build the Interstate in the 1950s and 60s was designed for a 20-year life. Resources are needed to reconstruct the foundations to support current traffic loads, update the pavement and rehabilitate bridges and ramps.
- Worsening congestion, especially in metropolitan areas, needs to be addressed by adding more capacity to the freeways.
- Smaller communities and emerging cities are demanding connections to the Interstate System.
- The Interstate Systems needs to be able to adapt to the changes in vehicle technologies that alter operations, safety and performance.
- When the Interstate System was built, little was known about Climate Change. Transportation agencies will need to incorporate strategies to make Interstates more resilient to the adverse effects of climate change.
- New funding mechanisms are needed to help pay for upgrades and repairs of the Interstate System.
The American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) supports the recently released TRB report, “Renewing the National Commitment to the Interstate Highway System: A Foundation of the Future.” The detailed report includes an action plan with 10 key recommendations to Congress, such as raising the current spending level from $45B to $70B annually over the next 20 years to fix the Interstate System, including pavement and bridges.
Key Recommendation from the report include:
- Congress should legislate an Interstate Highway System Renewal Modernization Program (RAMP). It should reinforce partnerships “in which the federal government provides leadership in establishing the national vision for the overall system, the bulk of the needed funding, and overall standards, while states prioritize and execute projects in their continued role as owners, builders, operators, and maintainers of the system.”
- Congress should increase the federal fuel tax to help with funding. It should also think about other funding mechanisms such as creating tolls or per-mile charges for users of the Interstate System.
- A “rightsizing” component of RAMP should address current and emerging demands to increase the length and scope of coverage of the Interstate System.
To read the 10 Key Recommendations, visit here.