It was almost a decade ago when the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 148. The bridge, built in 1964, had frequently been inspected and repaired, but to no avail. While the bridge failure was a tragedy, some good did come from it. The news coverage of its failure raised awareness around the country and amongst political leaders of the need to invest and update the nation’s infrastructure. This is nowhere more true than on the nation’s highways and roads.
KentuckyKentucky is not immune to the need for infrastructure improvements. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, compiled by The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and released earlier this month, states that with 79,857 miles of roads in the state, eight percent, or 6.388.56 miles, are in poor condition. The ASCE estimates that the costs to motorists because of driving on roads in need of repair adds up to $331 each per year. The cost are not only in money but in the additional time it takes to traverse roads in poor conditions and the potential dangers, including potholes, washouts, and other issues.
U.S. HighwaysA more comprehensive study was done by The American Automobile Association (AAA). In a 135-page report released this month titled Safety Benefits of Highway Infrastructure Investments, AAA investigates in detail the benefits of improving the nation’s highways. The report’s introduction states that while studies show that most accidents are caused by human errors which can lead to injury and death, simple changes to the highway infrastructure can reduce those errors and potentially help reduce the chances for errors, and thus the accidents. AAA states the ultimate purpose of the study is to “estimate the reduction in serious injuries and deaths that could be achieved through investments in highway infrastructure safety measures, and to estimate the level of investment required to achieve those benefits.”
FindingsThe study found that a $146 billion investment has the potential to save roughly 63,700 lives and prevent 353,560 injuries over the course of 20 years. The overall economic value of the benefits amounts to roughly $348.4 billion.
Types of ImprovementsThrough the study, AAA identified and outlined the most common and effective changes that can be made. They include:
- Converting key intersections into roundabouts (nearly 30% of total safety benefits)
- Installing roadside barriers and clearing roadside objects (nearly 20% of total safety benefits)
- Adding sidewalks and signalized pedestrian crossings on the majority of roads (nearly 20% of total safety benefits)
- Installing median barriers on divided highways (14% of total safety benefits)
- Installing shoulder and centerline rumble strips (nearly 9% of total safety benefits), and improving traffic signal phasing, converting intersections to roundabouts, and providing or improving facilities for pedestrians and cyclists