Brad Plumer on Obama’s ‘We don’t need to build more highways out in the suburbs’:
“Last year, UCLA economist Matthew Kahn and the University of Minnesota’s David Levinson made a more detailed case for a “fix-it first” strategy. They noted that, at the moment, federal highway spending doesn’t get subjected to strict cost-benefit analysis, and governments often build new roads when they arguably shouldn’t. When a highway gets clogged, states find it more palatable to simply build new lanes rather than, say, put in place congestion fees — even though research has found that widening highways does little to alleviate traffic jams.
Among other things, there’s a solid economic case for making repairs a much higher priority. As Kahn and Levinson explain, road pavement tends to deteriorate slowly at first but then more quickly over time. It’s much, much cheaper to repair a road early on, when it’s still in “fair” condition, than when it drops down to “serious” condition. And that’s to say nothing of data suggesting that poor road conditions are a “significant factor” in one-third of all fatal crashes, and cause extra wear and tear on cars.”