Construction companies across Pennsylvania are struggling to complete new roads and bridges in the wake of the devastating Superstorm Sandy, which cut off most of the state from the rest of the country.
Many state and local governments have had to make do with partial and temporary road and bridge work, and even more have been forced to suspend their maintenance contracts.
Yet, despite the challenges, a new study finds that Pennsylvania can afford to make major improvements to its roads and bridge systems.
In an effort to shed light on how much work remains to be done on Pennsylvania’s roads, the study released Tuesday by the American Society of Civil Engineers and Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Robert F. DePasquale examined every aspect of the road system, from the roads themselves to the maintenance contract with local governments.
The report, which looks at both existing and new roads, found that Pennsylvania has only about half the capacity to maintain the state’s roads as it does now.
But, the report found that the state can get more work done by replacing more of the infrastructure with modern, automated systems, and it could also do more to make sure it has enough money to maintain its roads in the long term.
This is a very tough situation, but we are still committed to doing the best we can with what we have, said DePascucci in a statement.
To be clear, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials says that the average cost of maintenance on state roads is about $4.5 billion a year.
But DePascalis report found, by combining data from a variety of state agencies, that the total cost of maintaining a road system is only about $3.3 billion, or nearly one-third of the cost of building the roads.
“In addition to the $1.6 billion of projected savings, there is also a significant cost reduction of approximately $2.1 billion per year,” DePasa said in a release.
DePascuci, in his report, notes that the cost savings from automating the work that would have been done on the roads could be as much as $20 billion per decade.
The report said that a new automated traffic management system would save the state about $30 billion per annum, or $16 per person.
And the work on the state road system could be done in 20 years, saving the state $18.3 million per year, or about $6 per person, the analysis found.
While the study found that only about two-thirds of the states road system can handle the work of modern systems, DePasinci says he expects the number to rise, since states have to upgrade aging infrastructure in order to accommodate the new technology.
For instance, while Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges are aging, the number of cars on the road is growing rapidly, DeParisi said.
Despite the challenges of repairing roads and getting more work to go on the system, DeSisi said that the report shows that the system is well-equipped to handle the challenges.
It shows that we are working to provide an environment where we can get the best results, he said.
“We know that our roads and the bridges are in great shape.”