New report finds deferred road repair poses huge financial liability for many states

June 1, 2011

Repair PrioritiesFor decades, states have invested disproportionately in road expansion and left maintenance and regular repair underfunded. This may sound like common knowledge, but the financial consequences are staggering.  As a result of these spending decisions, road conditions in many states are getting worse, and the cost to repair these roads is rising faster—much faster—than states can address them.


A new report from our partner, Smart Growth America, and Taxpayers for Common Sense, entitled Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads, examines road conditions and spending in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report finds that between 2004 and 2008, states spent more on road expansion than on repair—though new roads represented only 1.3% of the total road system, they received 57% of combined expansion and repair funding—and states have thus exposed themselves to huge financial liabilities by disproportionally investing in expansion.


 Pennsylvania’s potholes are legendary.  But as annoying as they are, far worse is the fact that roads that have deteriorated to poor condition are then much more expensive for us as taxpayers to pay to repair.  A few cracks and potholes might not seem like the makings of an impending budget crisis, but repair costs rise exponentially as roads age and/or deteriorate. Allowing a road to fall into poor condition, and then rebuilding it, can cost up to 14 times as much as keeping that road in good condition to begin with. That’s a 1400% greater cost to the taxpayers to fix the same road!  Repairs get more expensive as a road’s condition declines, so it’s much more sensible to do repairs early while they’re still relatively “cheap.” Investing in expansion at the cost of repair also means that with every dollar spent on new construction, states add to a system that they already cannot afford and currently are failing to maintain.


Taxpayers have an enormous stake in seeing that our roads are kept in good condition,” Erich W. Zimmermann of Taxpayers for Common Sense said in a statement. “Billions of precious tax dollars were spent to build our highway system, and neglecting repair squanders that investment. Keeping our roads in good condition reduces taxpayers’ future liabilities.”


More information about the high cost of delaying routine maintenance and repair, how states are investing their transportation dollars, and what leaders can do to address these concerns is available in the full report, at


For our press release, please click on the link below. 

Repair Priorities Report - Pennsylvania Press Release606 KB