Evaluating Our Transportation Structures

Evaluating Our Transportation Structures

Government invests in transportation to build a stronger economy by allowing for safe and efficient movement of goods and people. Governments have promoted transportation since ancient times. Once cities were fortified to protect citizens, the next step in civilization was to create local streets to support the movement of people and longer roads to support trade. Ports were built to facilitate trade by water. The national and state governments granted land, money, and monopolies to create canals, roads, and railroads. These helped launch the nation into the forefront of international trade and allowed all of America to share in economic prosperity. As cities developed, public transit, first encouraged through government grants and then owned by governments, allowed dense development to be balanced out by suburban living.

In the 20th century governments encouraged air travel by providing airports and making equipment and airways safe. The development of the Interstate Highway System beginning in the 1950s made the current American economy and style of life possible. Most of our goods travel by truck and most Americans commute from their suburban homes to work on an Interstate highway.

Infrastructure allows safe and efficient movement of people and goods across the state and helps maintain a livable environment. Oklahoma’s central location makes us an important hub for travel by truck and car. We have an extensive network of highways and local roads that keeps traffic congestion lower than elsewhere in the country. Recent investments like the ROADS program have improved the quality of our highways. In fact, highway spending has increased by almost one-third in ten years. Sadly, we have left much of our infrastructure to decay to among the worst of any state. It will take many years of increased investment to address the long backlog of deficient roads and crumbling bridges. We also have put too many eggs in the highway basket. We use more energy than most states due to the lack of passenger rail service and limited public transportation in our cities. This also limits development of our cities and suburbs and puts our economy and livability at risk if fuel prices rise.

Here are some indicators that offer a snapshot of where transportation in Oklahoma stands today.

22nd — Overall in highway performance according to rankings by the Reason Foundation in 2012. This reverses a pattern of decline that persisted through the 2000s. Areas of strength are spending on highway maintenance and traffic congestion. We fall below most other states in condition of rural roads and interstates in the urban areas, as well as deficient bridges and traffic fatalities.

15th — Oklahoma ranks 15th among the states in federal highway funding per person at $164 in 2013, according to the US Department of Transportation. Oklahoma’s per capita federal funding for highways decreased by 11.3 percent between 2008 and 2013, while funding increased nationwide by 7.3 percent during that time.

70% — of Oklahoma roadways were in mediocre or poor condition in 2013 according to the US Department of Transportation. This percentage has doubled since 2007, and is much worse than the also-worsening national average of 49 percent. Oklahoma ranks 5th worse among the states in road condition. Bridges also are in poor condition, with 25.4 percent of bridges deficient. Oklahoma has more than 5,800 deficient bridges.

10th — According to the US Bureau of the Census, Oklahomans had the 10th shortest commute in 2014, 21minutes. The national average was 26 minutes. Census data also found that one out of 250 work trips was by public transit, ranking Oklahoma 3rd lowest in public transit use.

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