FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Click here for the report, appendix, infographics and video interview footage with report authors
ARKANSAS INTERSTATE SYSTEM’S RATE OF ROAD DETERIORATION AND VEHICLE TRAVEL GROWTH AMONG HIGHEST IN U.S.; REPORT REQUESTED BY CONGRESS FINDS MOST OF U.S. INTERSTATE SYSTEM NEEDS RECONSTRUCTION AND MODERNIZATION, REQUIRING MORE THAN A DOUBLING OF CURRENT FUNDING
Eds: This report’s Appendix includes data for the Interstate system in all states: vehicle travel increase 2000-2019, pavements in poor condition, bridges in poor/structurally deficient and fair condition, bridges 50+ years old, share of urban Interstates congested, daily travel per urban lane mile, travel by combination trucks, traffic fatality rate on Interstate vs non-Interstate roads and lives saved by Interstate safety features.
Washington, D.C. – As the U.S. Interstate Highway System turns 65, it is congested, carries significant levels of travel – particularly by large trucks – and lacks adequate funding to make needed repairs and improvements. America’s most critical transportation link will need to be rebuilt and expanded to meet the nation’s growing transportation needs, according to a report released today by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit. The report, America’s Interstate Highway System at 65: Meeting America’s Transportation Needs with a Reliable, Safe & Well-Maintained National Highway Network, looks at the Interstate system’s use, condition and benefits, and at the findings of a 2019 report prepared by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), at the request of Congress as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, on the condition and use of the Interstate system and on actions required to restore and upgrade the Interstate system.
The chart below ranks states whose Interstate systems are the most congested, have experienced the greatest increase in vehicle miles of travel (VMT) since 2000, are busiest (based on daily travel per lane mile), have the largest share of pavement in poor condition, and have the greatest share of bridges in poor/structurally deficient condition. Data for all states can be found in the Appendix.
According to the TRB report, the U.S. Interstate system has a persistent and growing backlog of physical and operational deficiencies as a result of age, heavy use and deferred reinvestment, and is in need of major reconstruction and modernization. The TRB report concludes that annual investment in the Interstate Highway System should be increased approximately two-and-a-half times, from $23 billion in 2018 to $57 billion annually over the next 20 years.
“Arkansas is one of the most resource-rich and productive states in the U.S. Much of our production involves commodities that must be transported to markets coast to coast,” said Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas. “Steel, paper, lumber, grains, aggregates, meats and manufactured products all are likely to travel over Interstate highways to reach customers. The Interstate system is mission critical infrastructure that enables the Arkansas economy to function.”
According to the TRIP report, pavements on four percent of Arkansas’s Interstate highways are in poor condition, the fourteenth highest share in the nation. As the aging system’s foundations continue to deteriorate, most Interstate highways, bridges and interchanges will need to be rebuilt or replaced. TRIP’s report finds that while pavement smoothness on most segments of the U.S. Interstate system is acceptable, the crumbling foundations of most highway segments need to be reconstructed, and that continued resurfacing rather than addressing underlying foundational issues provides diminishing returns and results in shorter periods of pavement smoothness.
“The report released by TRIP confirms what American businesses experience every day—our Interstate Highway System, which was once the envy of the world, is in serious need of modernization,” said Ed Mortimer, vice president of transportation infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Commitment to modernization must be shared by federal, state and local leaders as well as the private sector. The Interstate system plays a key national role in economic success and quality of life for every American, and we urge bipartisan solutions this year to address this critical issue.”
Vehicle travel on Arkansas’s Interstates increased 35 percent from 2000 to 2019, the fourteenth highest rate in the nation. In Arkansas, 30 percent of urban Interstate highways are considered congested during peak hours.
The TRIP report found that since 2000, travel on the U.S. Interstate system, the importance of which has been heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, has increased at a rate nearly triple that at which new lane capacity is being added. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, vehicle travel on U.S. Interstate highways dropped by as much as 45 percent in April 2020 (compared to April 2019) but rebounded to six percent below April 2019 levels by April 2021.
“Our rapidly deteriorating infrastructure is a clear and present danger to our nation’s supply chain. Breakdowns in the Interstate Highway System add an annual $75 billion to the cost of freight transportation, and 67 million tons of excess carbon dioxide emissions are released into the atmosphere every year from trucks stuck in traffic congestion,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “This report quantifies how severe this crisis has become, and it underscores the urgent need for Congress to make real infrastructure investments that are backed by a fair and equitable user-based revenue source.”
The design of the Interstate – which includes a separation from other roads and rail lines, a minimum of four lanes, paved shoulders and median barriers – makes Arkansas’s Interstates more than twice as safe to travel on as all other roadways. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on Arkansas’s Interstate in 2019 was 0.75, compared to 1.58 on the state’s non-Interstate routes. TRIP estimates that additional safety features on Arkansas’s Interstate Highway System saved 76 lives in 2019.
Restoring and upgrading the Interstate Highway System to meet the nation’s 21st Century transportation needs will require a significant boost in funding, strong federal leadership and a robust federal-state partnership to reestablish the Interstate Highway System as the nation’s premier transportation network. The current federal surface transportation program, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST Act), the primary source of Interstate highway funding, expired on September 30, 2020 and was extended by one year by Congress to September 30, 2021. Reauthorization of a new long-term, adequately and reliably funded long-term federal program will be needed to ensure that a strong federal program supports the restoration of the Interstate system.
“AAA supports increased federal investment for the Interstate Highway System. Significant funding is needed to ensure safe, efficient and reliable mobility across the United States,” said Jill Ingrassia, AAA executive director of advocacy and communications. “AAA urges Congress and the administration to come together to get this important work done.”
Based on the findings of the TRB Interstate report, TRIP has provided a set of recommendations for the restoration of the Interstate Highway System, which includes: the foundational reconstruction of Interstate highways, bridges and interchanges; improvement to roadway safety features; system right-sizing, including upgrading of some roadway corridors to Interstate standards; adding needed additional highway capacity on existing routes; adding additional corridors; and, modifying some urban segments to maintain connectivity while remediating economic and social disruption.
“The long-term vision that helped establish the current Interstate Highway System 65 years ago is needed again today,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “A modernized Interstate system will be critical to the nation’s ability to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and will require adequate investment in a federal surface transportation program that provides states and local government the funding and flexibility they will need to restore the nation’s most critical transportation link.”