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2013 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit:
Conditions & Performance
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Executive Summary

This edition of the C&P report is based primarily on data through the year 2010; consequently, the system conditions and performance measures presented should reflect effects of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which authorized Federal highway and transit funding for Federal fiscal years 2005 through 2009 (and extended through fiscal year 2012), as well as some of the impact of the funding authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). None of the impact of funding authorized under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) is reflected. In assessing recent trends, this report generally focuses on the 10-year period from 2000 to 2010. The prospective analyses generally cover the 20-year period ending in 2030; the investment levels associated with these scenarios are stated in constant 2010 dollars.

In 2010, all levels of government spent a combined $205.3 billion for highway-related purposes, of which $11.9 billion was a direct impact of the Recovery Act. All levels of government spent a combined $54.3 billion for transit-related purposes, including $2.4 billion of expenditures supported by one-time funding under the Recovery Act.

The average annual capital investment level needed to maintain the conditions and performance of highways and bridges at 2010 levels through the year 2030 is projected to range from $65.3 billion to $86.3 billion per year, depending on the future rate of growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Improving the conditions and performance of highways and bridges by implementing all cost-beneficial investments would cost an estimated $123.7 billion to $145.9 billion per year. (Note that these projections are much lower than those presented in the 2010 C&P report, driven in part by an 18 percent reduction in highway construction prices between 2008 and 2010). In 2010, all levels of government spent a combined $100.2 billion for capital improvements to highways and bridges.

Key Findings. A graphic in two parts provides a summary of findings in the form of area charts. The upper part presents data for highway capital spending in 2010. Of the total $100.2 billion spent, the category of regular federal, state, and local funds accounts for $88.3 billion and the category of Recovery Act funds accounts for $11.9 billion. The annual cost to maintain conditions and performance is estimated to range from $65.3 billion to $86.3 billion. The annual cost to improve conditions and performance is estimated to range from $123.7 billion to $145.9 billion. The lower part presents data for transit capital spending in 2010. Of the total $16.5 billion spent, the category of regular federal, state, and local funds accounts for $14.2 billion and the category of Recovery Act funds accounts for $2.4 billion. The annual cost to achieve a state of good repair is estimated at $18.5 billion. The annual cost to expand and achieve a state of good repair is estimated to range between $22.0 billion and $24.5 billion. The annual costs shown in both the upper and lower parts of the graphic represent average annual levels of capital investment from all levels of government from 2010 to 2030 estimated to be needed to achieve the stated outcome.  The ranges shown depend on the rate of future travel growth.

Bringing existing transit assets up to a state of good repair would require an annualized investment level of $18.5 billion through the year 2030. The estimated combined costs associated with accommodating future increases in transit ridership and addressing system preservation needs when it is cost-beneficial to do so, would range from $22.0 billion to $24.5 billion per year. In 2010, all levels of government spent a combined $16.5 billion for transit capital improvements.

Highlights: Highways and Bridges

Extent of the System

Highway System Terminology

“Federal-aid Highways” are roads that are generally eligible for Federal funding assistance under current law. (Note that certain Federal programs do allow the use of Federal funds on other roadways.)

The “National Highway System” (NHS) includes those roads that are most important to interstate travel, economic expansion, and national defense. It includes the entire Interstate System. MAP-21 directed that the NHS system be expanded. The statistics presented for 2010 reflect the NHS as it existed then. The 20-year scenarios have been adjusted to approximate the NHS after expansion.

Spending on the System

Constant Dollar Conversions for Highway Expenditures

This report uses the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) National Highway Construction Cost Index (NHCCI) and its predecessor, the Composite Bid Price Index (BPI), for inflation adjustments to highway capital expenditures and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for adjustments to other types of highway expenditures.


Highway Capital Spending Terminology

This report splits highway capital spending into three broad categories. “System Rehabilitation” includes resurfacing, rehabilitation, or reconstruction of existing highway lanes and bridges. “System Expansion” includes the construction of new highways and bridges and the addition of lanes to existing highways. “System Enhancement” includes safety enhancements, traffic control facilities, and environmental enhancements.

Conditions and Performance of the System

Highway Safety Has Improved

Pavement Conditions Have Improved in Many Areas

Pavement Condition Terminology

This report uses the International Roughness Index (IRI) as a proxy for overall pavement condition. Pavements with an IRI value of less than 95 inches per mile are considered to have “good” ride quality. Pavements with an IRI value less than or equal to 170 inches per mile are considered to have “acceptable” ride quality. (Based on these definitions “good” is a subset of the “acceptable” category.) These metrics are typically VMT weighted, so the report refers to the percent of VMT on pavements with good ride quality. (Note that the NHS pavement statistics presented in this report are based on calendar year data, consistent with the annual Highway Statistics publication; in other DOT publications presented on a fiscal year basis, these calendar 2010 NHS statistics appear as Fiscal Year 2011 data.)

Bridge Conditions Have Improved

Bridge Condition Terminology

Bridges are considered “structurally deficient” if significant load-carrying elements are found to be in poor or worse condition due to deterioration and/or damage, or the adequacy of the waterway opening provided by the bridge is determined to be extremely insufficient to the point of causing intolerable traffic interruptions due to high water. That a bridge is deficient does not imply that it is likely to collapse or that it is unsafe.

Functional obsolescence is a function of the geometrics (i.e., lane width, number of lanes on the bridge, shoulder width, presence of guardrails on the approaches, etc.) of the bridge in relation to the geometrics required by current design standards. As an example, a bridge designed in the 1930s would have shoulder widths in conformance with the design standards of the 1930s, but could be deficient relative to current design standards, which are based on different criteria and require wider bridge shoulders to meet current safety standards. The magnitude of these types of deficiencies determines whether a bridge is classified as “functionally obsolete.”

These classifications are often weighted by bridge deck area, in recognition of the fact that bridges are not all the same size and, in general, larger bridges are more costly to rehabilitate or replace to address deficiencies. They are also sometimes weighted by annual daily traffic (ADT).

Future Capital Investment Scenarios – Systemwide

The scenarios that follow pertain to spending by all levels of government combined for the 20-year period from 2010 to 2030 (reflecting the impacts of spending from 2011 through 2030); the funding levels associated with all of these analyses are stated in constant 2010 dollars. Rather than assuming an immediate jump to a higher (or lower) investment level, each of these analyses assume that spending will grow by a uniform annual rate of increase (or decrease) in constant dollar terms using combined highway capital spending by all levels of government in 2010 as the starting point. As noted in the Introduction, caution should be taken in evaluating the scenario findings, given the impact of the Recovery Act funding on 2010 spending.

Sustain 2010 Spending Scenario

Highway Investment/Performance Analyses

In order to provide an estimate of the costs that might be required to maintain or improve system performance, this report includes a series of investment/performance analyses that examine the potential impacts of alternative levels of future combined investment levels by all levels of government on highways and bridges for different subsets of the overall system.

Drawing upon these investment/performance analyses, a series of illustrative scenarios were selected for further exploration and presentation in more detail. The scenario criteria were applied separately to the Interstate System, the NHS, all Federal-aid highways, and the overall road system.

Recognizing that one of the major factors influencing future highway investment needs will be future travel demand, two sets of illustrative scenarios are presented for Federal-aid Highways and the overall system. One set incorporates travel forecasts provided by the States for individual highway sections (averaging to 1.85 percent growth per year), while the other assumes lower travel growth based on a continuation of national trends over the last 15 years (1.36 percent growth per year).

Maintain Conditions and Performance Scenario

Improve Conditions and Performance Scenario

Intermediate Improvement Scenario

Highlights: Transit

Extent of the System

Bus, Rail, and Demand Response: Transit Modes

Public transportation is provided by several different types of vehicles that are used in different operational modes. The most common is fixed-route bus service, which uses different sizes of rubber-tired buses that run on scheduled routes. Commuter bus service is similar but uses over-the-road buses and runs longer distances between stops. Bus rapid transit is high-frequency bus service that emulates light rail service. Publicos and jitneys are small owner-operated buses or vans that operate on less-formal schedules along regular routes.

Larger urban areas are often served by one or more varieties of fixed-guideway (rail) service. These include heavy rail (often running in subway tunnels) which is primarily characterized by third-rail electric power and exclusive dedicated guideway. Extended urban areas may have commuter rail, which often shares track with freight trains and usually uses overhead electric power (but may also use diesel power). Light rail systems are common in large- and medium-sized urban areas; they feature overhead electric power and run on track that is entirely or in part on city streets that are shared with pedestrian and automobile traffic. Streetcars are small light rail systems, usually with only one or two cars per train. Cable cars, trolley buses, monorail, and automated guideway systems are less-common rail variants.

Demand response transit service is usually provided by vans, taxicabs, or small buses that are dispatched to pick up passengers upon request. This mode is mostly used to provide paratransit service as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. They do not follow a fixed schedule or route.

Spending on the System

Federal Transit Funding Urban and Rural

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Urbanized Area Formula Funds are apportioned to urbanized areas (UZAs), as defined by the Census Bureau. UZAs in this report were defined by the 2000 census. Data from the 2010 census will be used in the 2013 apportionment and beyond. Each UZA has a designated recipient, usually a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) or large transit agency, which then sub-allocates FTA funds in its area according to local policy. In small urban and rural areas, FTA apportions funds to the State, which allocates them according to State policy. Indian tribes receive their funds directly. All funds then become available, on a reimbursement basis, through application to the FTA.

Conditions and Performance of the System

Transit Remains Safe

Unlinked Passenger Trips, Passenger Miles, Route Miles, and Revenue Miles

Unlinked passenger trips (UPT), also called boardings, count every time a person gets on an in-service transit vehicle. Each transfer to a new vehicle or route is considered another unlinked trip, so a person’s commute to work may count as more than one trip if that person transferred between routes.

Passenger miles traveled (PMT) simply count how many miles a person travels. UPT and PMT are both commonly used measures of transit service consumed.

Directional route miles (DRM) measure the number of miles of transit route available to customers. They are directional because each direction counts separately; thus, a one-mile-out and one-mile-back bus route would be two DRM. Vehicle Revenue Miles (VRM) count the miles of revenue service, and are typically much greater than the DRM because many trips are taken over each route (and each DRM). These are commonly used measures of transit service provided.

Some Aspects of System Performance Have Improved

Future Capital Investment Scenarios – Systemwide

As in the highway discussion, the transit investment scenarios that follow pertain to spending by all levels of government combined for the 20-year period from 2010 to 2030 (reflecting the impacts of spending from 2011 through 2030); the funding levels associated with all of these analyses are stated in constant 2010 dollars. Unlike the highway scenarios, these transit scenarios assume an immediate jump to a higher (or lower) investment level that is maintained in constant dollar terms throughout the analysis period.

Included in this section for comparison purposes is an assessment of the investment level needed to replace all assets that are currently past their useful life or that will be over the forecast period. This would be necessary to achieve and maintain a state of good repair (SGR) but would not address any increases in demand during that period. Although not a realistic scenario, this does provide a benchmark for infrastructure preservation.

Sustain 2010 Spending Scenario

Low-Growth Scenario

High-Growth Scenario

State of Good Repair – Expansion vs. Preservation

State of Good Repair (SGR) is defined in this report as all transit capital assets being within their average service life. This is a general construct that allows FTA to estimate system preservation needs. The analysis looks at the age of all transit assets and adds the value of those that are past the age at which that type of asset is usually replaced to a total reinvestment needs estimate. Some assets may continue to provide reliable service well past the average replacement age and others will not; over the large number of assets nationally, the differences average out. Some assets will need to be replaced, some will just get refurbished. Both types of cost are included in the reinvestment total. SGR is a measure of system preservation needs, and failure to meet these needs results in increased operating costs and poor service.

Expansion needs are treated separately in this analysis. They result from the need to add vehicles and route miles to accommodate more riders. Estimates of future demand are, by their nature, speculative. Failure to meet this type of need results in crowded vehicles and represents a lost opportunity to provide the benefits of transit to a wider customer base.

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