Q. How do you determine which streets are going to be paved?
A. It’s much cheaper to preserve a street by resurfacing it than it is to rebuild a damaged street ($20 per square yard to resurface vs. $140 per square yard to reconstruct). So for the same amount of money we can raise the condition of one city block from Poor to Excellent (pavement reconstruction), or we can improve seven city blocks from Fair to Excellent (pavement preservation). For this reason, we spend 80% of our scarce resources on Fair streets and only 20% on Poor streets. Preserving what we have must continue until additional paving money becomes available.
Q. Why isn’t there enough money for street maintenance?It's quite a feedback loop--the greater the fuel efficiency of cars, the less money we have for infrastructure. What happens when fuel efficiency doubles, as it's supposed to by 2025? Will we double or quadruple the gas tax to make up the difference? That seems unlikely.
A. In part, improvements in fuel efficiency have led to lower gas tax revenue for cities. For example, in 1993, cars averaged 10 miles per gallon and the Gas Tax was $0.18 per gallon. Today, cars get 30 miles per gallon, yet the Gas Tax is still $0.18 per gallon. As a result, we’re driving more and paying less.
People (well, some people) have been complaining for years that the externalities of driving--pollution, climate change, infrastructure costs, etc.--are unfairly subsidized by the general public. At some point, will the costs associated with driving become prohibitively expensive? What happens then? Clearly, something's gotta give.