Report Card: Florida's Roads and Bridges
Florida’s Roads and Bridges
In many parts of the country, the words “roads” and “bridges” are almost always coupled with some reference to “crumbling infrastructure,” but Florida’s roads and bridges are in much better shape. A 2019 study by the public policy think tank Reason Foundation found that Florida ranked third in the nation for the condition of its bridges, fifth in urban interstate pavement condition and sixth in rural interstate pavement condition.
Florida’s best rankings were in urban arterial pavement condition (first) and rural arterial pavement condition (second). 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news site, ranking the worst states for road infrastructure and condition, came to similar conclusions. Florida’s roads were the second-best in the country, just behind Nevada’s. It found Florida had the lowest percentage of roads in poor condition (1.3%) and the sixth-lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges (2.6%).
Why are Florida’s roads in better shape? Of course, many areas of the country have harsher climates, but that isn’t the only reason. The Legislature and governors for many years now — going back to the 1980s — have seen transportation as a job maker and an economic development linchpin, says Sally Patrenos, president of Floridians for Better Transportation, a statewide business and transportation association. “In that regard, they have made sure the transportation infrastructure is not only in place but it’s growing to try to keep up with the amount of growth that we have.”
Patrenos says expenditures for safety and maintenance come off the top, even before money is allotted for expansion. “It is, indeed, that prioritization of funding that keeps our system where it is, because it would be very tempting to siphon off money for things that are trendy at the time, and that would be a big mistake,” she says.
The challenge: “A lot of states say build it and they will come. In Florida we have built it and they have come and come and come … and we have to build to meet their needs. That does not appear to be slowing down any time soon.” Patrenos says Florida’s transportation trust fund, which pays for road improvements, is fueled by the state gas tax, and electric vehicles don’t pay into that. As other states have done, Florida needs to find a way to make electric vehicle owners pay their fair share for maintenance and growth of our roads and bridges, she says (“Electric Car Fees?” Economic Backbone, page 28).
Read more in Florida Trend's May issue.
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