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How Much Unmaintained Roads Cost NJ Drivers

Morristown Minute

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Morristown Minute

37% of roads in New Jersey are in poor condition costing each motorist $713 per year. An in-depth look at NJ roads and our countries infrastructure.

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According to the 2021 Report Card For America’s Infrastructure, 37 % of roads in New Jersey are in poor condition. Each NJ motorist pays an average of $713 per year in costs due to driving on roads in poor condition.

Continually, New Jersey is home to 6,786 bridges, of which 7.8% were structurally deficient in 2019.

“If the United States is serious about achieving an infrastructure system fit for the future, some specific steps must be taken, beginning with increased, long-term, consistent investment. To close the nearly $2.59 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future needs, and restore our global competitive advantage, we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025.” – 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, Executive Summary

New Jersey Infrastructure Overview

“While the nation’s infrastructure earned a C- in the 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, New Jersey faces infrastructure challenges of its own. For example, driving on roads in need of repair in New Jersey costs each driver $713 per year, and 7.8% of bridges are rated structurally deficient. Drinking water needs in New Jersey are an estimated $8.6 billion. 229 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential. The state’s schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $1.58 billion. This deteriorating infrastructure impedes New Jersey’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace. Success in a 21st-century economy requires serious, sustained leadership on infrastructure investment at all levels of government. Delaying these investments only escalates the cost and risks of an aging infrastructure system, an option that the country, New Jersey, and families can no longer afford.” - America's Infrastructure Report Card

Overall, America’s Infrastructure Scores a C-

  • There is a water main break every two minutes – an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost each day in the U.S.
  • Growing wear and tear on our nation’s roads – 43% of our public roadways are in poor or mediocre conditions, a number that has remained stagnant over the past several years
  • There are 30,000 miles of inventoried levees across the U.S. – there are an additional 10,000 miles of levees whose location and condition are unknown

Below is the grade rating (A+ to F) of the country’s infrastructure:

Roads: D

America’s roads are critical for moving an ever-increasing number of people and goods. However, these vital lifelines are frequently underfunded, and over 40% of the system is now in poor or mediocre condition. 

As the backlog of rehabilitation needs grows, motorists are forced to pay over $1,000 every year in wasted time and fuel. Additionally, while traffic fatalities have been on the decline, over 36,000 people are still dying on the nation’s roads every year, and the number of pedestrian fatalities is on the rise. 

Federal, state, and local governments will need to prioritize strategic investments dedicated to improving and preserving roadway conditions that increase public safety on the system we have in place, as well as plan for the roadways of the future, which will need to account for connected and autonomous vehicles.

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The most well-maintained roads in the country are in Oregon, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, and Alabama.

Unfortunately, New Jersey has some of the worst and most costly road conditions in the country, as you can see in the figure below.

…more national infrastructure ratings

Aviation: D+

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s airports were facing growing capacity challenges. 

Over a two-year period, passenger travel steadily increased from 964.7 million to 1.2 billion per year, yet flight service only increased from 9.7 to 10.2 million flights per year — contributing in part to a total of nearly 96 million delay minutes for airline passengers in 2019. 

Terminal, gate, and ramp availability was not meeting the needs of a growing passenger base. 

Under pre-COVID-19 projections, our aviation system was set to have a 10-year, $111 billion funding shortfall, and that gap has likely grown significantly as passenger volumes dropped in March 2020 and have yet to recover. However, funding from Congress has risen from $11 billion annually to approximately $15 billion from 2017 to 2020. 

These additional investments are driving some early results as measured by improved economic performance.

Bridges: C

There are more than 617,000 bridges across the United States. Currently, 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old, and 46,154, or 7.5% of the nation’s bridges, are considered structurally deficient, meaning they are in “poor” condition. 

Unfortunately, 178 million trips are taken across these structurally deficient bridges every day. In recent years, though, as the average age of America’s bridges increases to 44 years, the number of structurally deficient bridges has continued to decline; however, the rate of improvements has slowed. 

A recent estimate for the nation’s backlog of bridge repair needs is $125 billion. Estimates show that we need to increase spending on bridge rehabilitation from $14.4 billion annually to $22.7 billion annually, or by 58%, if we are to improve the condition. 

At the current rate of investment, it will take until 2071 to make all of the repairs that are currently necessary, and the additional deterioration over the next 50 years will become overwhelming. 

The nation needs a systematic program for bridge preservation like that embraced by many states, whereby existing deterioration is prioritized, and the focus is on preventive maintenance.

Dams: D

There are over 91,000 dams across the country that serve many purposes. 

Dams are classified by hazard potential. A high-hazard-potential rating does not imply that a dam has an increased risk for failure; it simply means that if failure were to occur, the resulting consequences would likely be a direct loss of human life and extensive property damage. 

Over the last 20 years, the number of high-hazard-potential dams has more than doubled as development steadily encroaches on once-rural dams and reservoirs. 

Although the number of high-hazard-potential dams has increased, the overall percentage of these dams protected by an Emergency Action Plan has increased as well. As of 2018, 81% of such dams had a plan on file, up 5% from 2015. 

Unfortunately, due to the lack of investment, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates the number of deficient high-hazard-potential dams now exceeds 2,300. Meanwhile, approximately 3% of dams supply households and businesses with hydroelectric power, and many of these dams are privately owned by utilities and follow a rigorous operations and maintenance schedule.

Drinking Water: C-

Our nation’s drinking water infrastructure system is made up of 2.2 million miles of underground pipes that deliver safe, reliable water to millions of people. 

Unfortunately, the system is aging and underfunded. There is a water main break every two minutes, and an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost each day in the U.S., enough to fill over 9,000 swimming pools. However, there are signs of progress as federal financing programs expand and water utilities raise rates to reinvest in their networks. 

It is estimated that more than 12,000 miles of water pipes were planned to be replaced by drinking water utilities across the country in 2020 alone. 

In 2019, about a third of all utilities had a robust asset management program in place to help prioritize their capital and operations/maintenance investments with limited dollars. 

Finally, water utilities are improving their resilience by developing and updating risk assessments and emergency response plans, as well as deploying innovative water technologies like sensors and smart water quality monitoring.

Energy: C-

In a digital, connected world, Americans increasingly rely on readily available and uninterrupted electricity. Over the last four years, transmission and distribution, and reliability-focused pipeline investments have increased, and outages have declined slightly. 

Annual spending on high voltage transmission lines grew from $15.6 billion in 2012 to $21.9 billion in 2017, while annual spending on distribution systems — the “last mile” of the electricity network — grew 54% over the past two decades. 

Utilities are taking proactive steps to strengthen the electric grid through resilience measures. However, the weather remains an increasing threat. 

Among 638 transmission outage events reported from 2014 to 2018, severe weather was cited as the predominant cause. 

Additionally, distribution infrastructure struggles with reliability, with 92% of all outages occurring along these segments. 

In the coming years, additional transmission and distribution infrastructure, smart planning, and improved reliability are needed to accommodate the changing energy landscape, as delivery becomes distributed, and renewables grow.

Hazardous Waste: D+

There are an estimated 35 million tons of hazardous materials managed annually in the United States. In general, there is adequate capacity for the treatment and disposal of these materials through the year 2044. However, progress toward mitigating legacy sites where hazardous waste was produced and improperly disposed of has stalled. 

There are approximately 1,300 Superfund sites where cleanup activities are either incomplete or not yet begun, roughly the same number as four years ago. Meanwhile, the Superfund budget has remained essentially flat at around $1.1 billion over the last 10 years. The two other hazardous waste programs — one for brownfields and one for hazardous waste regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act — are also in a steady state. 

In general, grant funding for the Brownfields Program has increased, but the program is still oversubscribed, with just 30% of applicants receiving funding. 

Meanwhile, resilience is a growing concern at many hazardous waste sites. Around 60% of all nonfederal Superfund sites are located in areas that may be impacted by flooding, storm surge, wildfires, or sea-level rise related to climate change effects.

Inland Waterways: D+

The Mississippi River and its tributaries, as well as the Columbia, Sacramento, and San Joaquin Rivers on the West Coast make up nearly 12,000 miles of navigable waterways — the U.S. freight network’s “water highway.” 

Inland waterway infrastructure includes locks and dams as well as navigation channels. Investing in this infrastructure helps move agricultural exports and relieves strain on other transportation modes. One barge can move as many tons as 70 tractor-trailers. 

Recent boosts in federal investment and an increase in user fees have begun to reverse decades of declining lock and dam conditions, with unscheduled lock closures reaching a 20-year low in 2017. While this is encouraging, the system still reports a $6.8 billion backlog in construction projects and ongoing lock closures — totaling 5,000 hours between 2015 and 2019 — harming the industries that rely on the waterways to get their goods to market. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates delays cost up to $739 per hour for an average tow or $44 million per year.

Levees: D

Seventeen million people across the nation live or work behind a levee. Levees protect critical infrastructure systems, $2.3 trillion of property, 4,500 schools that collectively enroll over 2 million students, and a range of industries. 

The National Levee Database contains nearly 30,000 miles of levees across the U.S., and current estimates identify up to 10,000 additional miles of levees outside of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) portfolio whose location and condition are unknown due to complex and varying local ownership. 

The USACE estimates that $21 billion is needed to improve and maintain the moderate to high-risk levees in its portfolio, which represents only about 15% of the known levees in the U.S. 

As more extreme weather events result in increased flooding, such as the $20 billion in damages caused by flooding in the Midwest during the spring of 2019, it is now more important than ever to have a complete inventory of the nation’s levees and to equip communities with resources to mitigate flood risk and make necessary repairs.

Ports: B-

The nation’s more than 300 coastal and inland ports are significant drivers of the U.S. economy, supporting 30.8 million jobs in 2018 and 26% of the total GDP. 

Ports and port tenants plan to spend $163 billion between 2021 and 2025, up by over $8 billion in the last four years. Investments are focused on capacity and efficiency enhancements as maximum vessel size has doubled over the last 15 years, and tonnage at the top 25 ports grew by 4.4% from 2015 to 2019. 

Federal funding has increased through multimodal competitive grant programs. However, there is a funding gap of over $12 billion for waterside infrastructure such as dredging over the next 10 years, with additional billions needed for landside infrastructure. Smaller and inland ports are especially challenged to maintain their infrastructure and have difficulty competing for federal grants. 

Meanwhile, a port’s success is reliant on the infrastructure outside of its gates, which is often congested or in poor condition. For example, just 9% of intermodal connector pavement — the portions of the roadway that connect a port to other modes — are in good or very good condition.

Public Parks: D+

Americans spend a lot of time in their parks, visiting local parks and recreational facilities more than twice a month on average. 

In 2017, people spent $887 billion on outdoor recreation, directly supporting 7.6 million jobs. There are about 10 acres of public park land per 1,000 residents. 

Despite their increased popularity, investment in parks is lagging, resulting in deteriorating bridges, trails, parking areas, drinking water systems, and more. State parks and local parks face a $5.6 billion and $60 billion deferred maintenance backlog, respectively. 

While the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog grew over 9% in the last decade, with more than half of their assets in need of repair, federal funding for parks is set to increase with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020. 

Meanwhile, limited space in urban areas is causing local governments, utilities, and nonprofits to be more creative by building parks projects that provide mutually beneficial functions, such as public access spaces that also serve as flood control.

Rail: B

Our nation’s rail network is divided into two categories: freight rail and passenger rail. 

Approximately 140,000 rail miles are operated by freight’s Class I, II, and III railroads. Amtrak operates over a 21,400-mile network, 70% of which is owned by other railroads, also known as host track. 

Despite freight and passenger rail being part of an integrated system, there remain stark differences in the challenges faced by the two rail categories. While freight maintains a strong network largely through direct shipper fees — investing on average over $260,000 per mile — passenger rail requires government investment and has been plagued by a lack of federal support, leading to a current state of good repair backlog at $45.2 billion. 

Along our nation’s busiest passenger rail corridor, the Northeast Corridor (NEC), infrastructure-related issues caused 328,000 train-delay minutes, or the equivalent of roughly 700 Northeast Regional train trips from Boston, Massachusetts, to Washington, D.C.

Schools: D+

School facilities represent the second largest sector of public infrastructure spending, after highways, and yet there is no comprehensive national data source on K-12 public school infrastructure. 

What data is available indicates that 53% of public-school districts report the need to update or replace multiple building systems, including HVAC systems. More than one-third of public schools have portable buildings due to capacity constraints, with 45% of these portable buildings in poor or fair condition. 

Meanwhile, as a share of the economy, state capital funding for schools was down 31% in fiscal year 2017 compared to 2008. That is the equivalent of a $20 billion cut. The best estimates indicate a minimum of $38 billion annual funding gap for public school facilities across the country. 

Meanwhile, public schools increasingly serve a secondary function as emergency shelters and community resource facilities during man-made or natural disasters, and facility upgrades are needed to effectively fulfill this important community purpose.

Solid Waste: C+

The U.S. produced approximately 268 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2017, or 4.51 pounds per person per day. This is a modest increase from the 4.4 pounds of MSW generated per person per day in 2014. 

Overall, 53% of waste is deposited in landfills, 25% is recycled, 10% is composted, and 13% is combusted for energy. 

The transport and disposal of MSW remains largely funded and managed by the private sector. However, the U.S. MSW management system faces a growing number of challenges such as plateauing recycling rates, emerging contaminants found in legacy landfills, and significantly changing global markets. 

Funding mechanisms are needed to invest in a nationwide solid waste infrastructure system that recognizes MSW as a resource to be utilized more so than waste to be disposed.

Stormwater: D

Stormwater systems range from large concrete storm sewers, roadside ditches, and flood control reservoirs to rain gardens and natural riverine systems. While stormwater utilities are on the rise, with more than 40 states having at least one, the impervious surfaces in cities and suburbs are also expanding, exacerbating urban flooding, which results in $9 billion in damages annually. 

Stormwater also affects water quality as polluted runoff from pavement enters water bodies. Nearly 600,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 13 million acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds are considered impaired. 

Federal funding, though up in recent years, averages about $250 million annually, which leaves a growing annual funding gap of $8 billion just to comply with current regulations. 

With few dedicated funding sources, complicated governance and ownership structures, expansive networks of aging assets, increasingly stringent water quality regulations, and concerning climate change projections, the expected performance of stormwater systems is declining. 

Many of the country’s legacy stormwater systems, are struggling with the high cost of retrofits needed to address urban flooding and climate change. Upgrading large networks of aging systems underneath densely populated areas carries significant costs and engineering challenges.

Public Transit: D-

Public transit is essential to everyday living in communities across the country, providing access to jobs, schools, shopping, healthcare, and other services while enabling equitable access and sustainable mobility options. Unfortunately, 45% of Americans have no access to transit. 

Meanwhile, much of the existing system is aging, and transit agencies often lack sufficient funds to keep their existing systems in good working order. Over a 10-year period across the country, 19% of transit vehicles, and 6% of fixed guideway elements like tracks and tunnels were rated in “poor” condition.

Currently, there is a $176 billion transit backlog, a deficit that is expected to grow to more than $270 billion through 2029. 

Meanwhile, transit ridership is declining, a trend compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Failure to address the transit revenue shortfall will only exacerbate ridership declines as service cuts mean that trip delays and reliability issues become more frequent. This stands to increase congestion, hamper the economy, and worsen air quality in the coming years.

Wastewater: D+

The nation’s more than 16,000 wastewater treatment plants are functioning, on average, at 81% of their design capacities, while 15% have reached or exceeded it. 

Growing urban environments signal a trend that these facilities will increasingly accommodate a larger portion of the nation’s wastewater demand. Though large-scale capital improvements have been made to systems experiencing sanitary sewer overflows, efforts have slowed in recent years. 

As many treatment plants and collection networks approach the end of their lifespans, the financial responsibilities for operation and maintenance will become more costly. Estimates indicate that utilities spent over $3 billion in 2019, or more than $18 per wastewater customer, to replace almost 4,700 miles of pipeline nationwide. 

Recently, the more prevalent use of asset management plans enables 62% of surveyed utilities to proactively manage wastewater infrastructure maintenance rather than reactively respond to pipeline and equipment failures. 

In 2019, though the annual water infrastructure capital investment gap was $81 billion, the sector has made strides to address current and future needs through resilience-related planning and innovations that produce profitable byproducts or cost savings from wastewater treatment.

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