Ray LaHood: New approach needed to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure

WASHINGTON — Bridges and roads around the United States are crumbling
after decades of wear and tear, and a new strategy is needed to replenish the
funds for improvement, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says.

With many roads and bridges in disrepair, people are continuing to drive on
deteriorating infrastructure, LaHood says.

“We are deficient everywhere in the country because the states simply don’t
have the resources, and the national government has not provided the
leadership to keep up with our crumbling roads and our bridges that are
falling down,” says LaHood, who is now co-chair of Building America’s Future,
a bipartisan coalition for infrastructure investment.

More than 66,000 bridges — one in nine — are considered to be structurally
deficient, according to America’s Infrastructure Report Card.

One of those bridges — the Interstate 495
bridge in Wilmington, Delaware — was repaired before major damage occurred.
Earlier this
year, Delaware officials ordered an emergency closure of the I-495
bridge
after they discovered four support columns were
tilting. The bridge normally carries about 90,000 vehicles a day.

LaHood says one thing that is leading to decaying roads and bridges is the
lack of investment in the Highway Trust Fund, which receives money through the
fuel tax. The fuel tax needs to be raised a minimum of 10 cents a gallon to
keep up with the demand, he says.

Less money is coming in through the gas tax because “people are driving less
and driving more fuel-efficient cars and the fund is depleted because of the
high cost of repairs [to the infrastructure,]” LaHood says.

Improvement to the roads could not only help the infrastructure itself — it
could help create jobs and stimulate the economy, too.

“When you put people to work, you create jobs and people begin to pay taxes
and, obviously, the economy improves,” LaHood says.

“This is not only about fixing up our roads and bridges, not only making
America No. 1 in infrastructure again, it’s about putting our friends and
neighbors back to work.”

Winter’s cold can exacerbate the already bad road and bridge conditions, as
snow, salt and ice leave their mark.

“There is no question — America is one big pothole.”

Below are the numbers of structurally deficient bridges in the D.C. area,
according to the 2013 infrastructure report card:

Maryland

  • Montgomery County: 20 out of 510 bridges
  • Prince George’s County: 29 out of 755 bridges
  • Anna Arundel County: 13 out of 512 bridges
  • Charles County: 3 out of 92 bridges
  • Frederick County: 30 out of 562 bridges
  • Howard County: 16 out of 354 bridges

Virginia

  • Fairfax County: 19 out of 1,196 bridges
  • Arlington County: 3 out of 125 bridges
  • Loudoun County: 15 out of 467 bridges
  • Prince William County: 11 out of 368 bridges

D.C.

  • 30 out of 306 bridges

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPTraffic on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up