AASHTO Journal, 21 November 2014
The Oregon Department of Transportation is warning that the projected slow pace of state spending on roads and bridges will raise transportation costs, slow the economy and cost about 100,000 jobs through 2035.
Those conclusions are in a new study that spells out how much the state’s commerce will suffer from not investing more in its roadway infrastructure.
“Rough Roads Ahead: The Cost of Poor Highway Conditions to Oregon’s Economy” predicts a bumpy ride under the current 20-year budget forecast. “Highway conditions will deteriorate significantly,” the report says, and “an increasing number of bridges will close to heavy trucks, forcing lengthy detours that cost businesses time and money. Poor pavement quality will slow traffic and lead to greater wear and tear on vehicles, both autos and trucks. These worsening conditions will increase transportation user costs and hurt Oregon’s economy.”
In a separate study, ODOT looks at the benefits that could come from a targeted program to make hundreds of roadway bridges more resilient to a potential earthquake.
In the event of a major quake that disrupts the transportation system, it said spending $5.1 billion (in 2013 dollars) to upgrade bridges now could save $84 billion in economic losses. What’s more, ODOT said that even if the state did not suffer a major seismic event, those targeted bridge repairs would head off infrastructure deterioration that would close more roads to heavy freight traffic and cost 70,000 jobs through 2035.
“These studies are a wake-up call,” said ODOT Director Matthew Garrett. “We can take action today to protect our future economy, with reasonable investment. If we don’t pay for maintenance and seismic improvements now, they’ll be prohibitively more costly later, when we may no longer have any choice.”
The department said Oregon’s transportation system is in good shape now “because of significant investments made by the federal government and the Oregon Legislature over the last decade, mainly through one-time infusions” under a state bridge program and the federal economic recovery law Congress passed in 2009.