In the 10 years since a deadly 2007 bridge collapse along Interstate 35W in Minneapolis, the U.S. has not kept pace with bridge construction needs despite significant state investment, according to an American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) report.
ARTBA reported that from 2007 to 2016, the value of bridge construction increased 39% to $32.3 billion, and the number of structurally deficient bridges decreased by 24.5% — leaving 55,710 bridges in need of repair or replacement.
At the current rate of investment, it would take 30 years to make the necessary repairs or replacements. By then, there will be even more bridges classified as structurally deficient. ARTBA officials said federal dollars account for 50% of state highway and bridge spending, and so they urged Congress to beef up revenue to a major source of funding, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).
In June, 250 House lawmakers called on the House Ways and Means Committee to figure out a long-term financing plan for the country's transportation infrastructure projects. If that funding need were to go unaddressed, the bipartisan group said, the nation would fall even further behind in its efforts to upgrade its roads and bridges.
Their financing suggestions included raising sales and tire taxes, charging drivers a mileage fee and increasing the national gas tax, which feeds the HTF and has been the same 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993.
The House's idea echoed a March proposal from Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-OR), who said that a penny-a-year increase in the federal gas tax could add $17 billion annually to the HTF.
While new taxes often rank low with taxpayers, a July Bloomberg poll found that more than 55% of Americans would support an increase in the federal gas tax if the money went toward road and bridge projects in their states.
States, picking up on this public sentiment, have passed their own gas-tax increases to finance transportation projects. California raised its gas tax by 12 cents per gallon to help pay for a $52 billion infrastructure plan, while Indiana is going to use an extra 10 cents per gallon in tax revenue to finance $4.7 billion in infrastructure upgrades. Indiana officials said they found residents were willing to pay more in gas taxes if they could be sure the money was going toward better roads.