New Report: Misplaced highway spending to blame for crumbling roads and bridges

Media Contacts

NCPIRG Education Fund

Raleigh, April 28 – Drivers in North Carolina pay an extra $251 per year on car repairs due to highways and bridges in disrepair.

A new report released today strongly criticized politicians and policies that favor building new roadways while neglecting existing bridges and roads. The report notes that, for North Carolina car owners, rough roads increase their repair and operating expenses by an average of $251 per year. North Carolina has not prioritized preservation of its existing roadways and the state legislature and Department of Transportation have continued to plan for a spate of outer ring roads throughout the state which would further deplete funds for repair and maintenance. Despite the recent construction of much of North Carolina’s highways, 42 percent of roads are in less than good condition and 2,442 of the state’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient by government inspectors. Fourteen percent of North Carolina’s bridges are structurally deficient, compared to 12 percent nationally.

“This report calls into question our nation’s transportation priorities,” said Allison Cairo of NCPIRG. “It is a waste of scarce resources to continue spending billions on new highways while existing roadways need repair. It’s like adding a guest room on your home when the roof is leaking.”

The report places the blame on powerful special interests and perverse state and federal policies. It points out that, by and large, states generally award major new construction contracts to outside contractors, many of whom lobby for such projects. Routine maintenance and repairs, by contrast, tend to be performed by in-house staff who lack outside influence. Politicians can be susceptible to these pressures because they garner positive political attention from ribbon cuttings for new projects, and mainly hear complaints about closing roads for repair and maintenance, according to the report.

“We need to prioritize fixing what we have before building all these new roads. With our budget problems, every dollar needs to be used wisely,” said Cairo.“North Carolina should establish strong fix-it-first policies that ensure that no funds are wasted on new projects until we’ve cleared our backlog of needed repair.”