Report details interstate highway system’s deficiencies

By |  June 28, 2016

TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization, produced a report detailing how the aging U.S. interstate highway system will increasingly require more long-term, costly repairs.

According to the TRIP report, “The Interstate Highway System Turns 60: Challenges to Its Ability to Continue to Save Lives, Time and Money,” while the interstate highway system represents only 2.5 percent of lane miles in the United States, it carries 25 percent of the nation’s vehicle travel.

The system is increasingly congested, with truck travel growing at a rate twice that of overall interstate travel, according to TRIP. And, while the nation’s interstates tend to be in better condition than other roads and bridges, the aging system lacks the required funding for needed improvements and repairs.

“Drivers are frustrated with the condition of the nation’s transportation system,” says Jill Ingrassia, AAA’s managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy. “While a record 36 million travelers plan to hit the road for Independence Day weekend, nearly 70 percent are concerned that roads and bridges are not in great driving condition. AAA urges lawmakers to keep their eye on the ball to identify a sustainable funding source to maintain and improve our interstate system for the future.”

The current backlog of needed improvements to the interstate highway system, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is $189 billion. By 2020 the shortfall into the nation’s Highway Trust Fund will be $16 billion annually.

“The United States moves in large part thanks to the efforts of many elected officials, organizations and citizens whose shared foresight led to the construction of the national interstate system,” says Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Now, as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the interstate act, it’s clear that our investments in preserving the system are not keeping up even as our nation continues to grow.”

TRIP reports that, since 2000, travel on the interstate highway system is increasing two times faster than new lane capacity is being added. As a result, 43 percent of urban interstate highways are considered congested during peak hours, and the average annual amount of travel per interstate lane mile increased by 11 percent from 2000 to 2014.

Travel on the nation’s interstate highways has surged since 2014, TRIP adds. In 2015, for example, vehicle miles of travel on the interstate highway system were 4 percent higher than in 2014. Through the first three months of 2016, travel on the system was 6 percent higher than during the first three months of 2015.

“The long-term vision that helped establish the current interstate system 60 years ago is needed again today,” says Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “In order to maintain personal and commercial mobility, transportation investment and a sustainable, long-term funding source for the federal surface transportation program must remain a priority.”

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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