Will The Trump Trillion Be Enough?

January 20, 2017

Here's the problem: According to the latest Conditions & Performance Report to Congress, there is an $836 billion backlog of unmet capital investment needs for highways and bridges, and another $90 billion for transit system needs.

The incoming Trump administration has described a plan to generate an estimated $1 trillion in overall infrastructure investment over the next decade, much of it by incentivizing much more private spending on projects.

However, the AASHTO Journal writes that that total was for varied types of infrastructure, and the USDOT report indicates that the backlog for highway and transit projects alone is nearly that great, separate from other transportation modes and from other types of infrastructure needs.

The lack of infrastructure investment over the past years is catching up with us. Addressing the growing backlog—while still meeting other needs as they arise over the next two decades—will require $142.5 billion in combined transportation spending from state, federal and local governments. In 2012, the most recent year in which the report’s data were available, federal, state and local governments combined spent $105.2 billion on this infrastructure: 35.5 percent less than what is needed to improve highways and bridges.

“The case for more investment in our nation’s transportation system is clear,” said Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau. “A strong transportation system will make businesses more productive and freight shippers safer and more efficient while improving America’s quality of life.”

The report also indicates that $26.4 billion is needed per year to improve the condition of transit rail and bus systems. In 2012, total spending to preserve and expand transit systems was $17 billion. If transit investment is sustained at those levels, overall transit system conditions are expected to decline over the next 20 years, and increasing the transit system preservation backlog from an estimated $89.8 billion to $122 billion. 

Read the full 2015 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Performance report here.