As I write this post we have passed 3,500 miles on our trip. I have felt almost every one of those three thousand five hundred miles. The RV has shaken enough to loosen dozens of screws and make things rattle that I didn't even know could rattle. Why? Because too many of America's roads are falling part.
If you have plans to motor through the Midwest, hold on to your hat (and anything else that might be loose): I-70 through eastern Colorado, I-90 through southern Minnesota, I-35 in Iowa and Minnesota, I-39 in Wisconsin.....the list is endless. Have you noticed that the major offenders are part of our Interstate highway system. Certainly we encountered some terrible state and county roads, but the worst have been parts of the national system.
Being summer, every few dozen miles or so a lane is closed while crews replace a bridge, or patch the worst holes and cracks. But, all they are doing is placing a bandage on a gaping wound. I would guess hundreds of billions of dollars and years of repairs are required to restore our broken down, decrepit highway system.
80% of American communities are totally dependent on trucks to bring them fuel, food, and supplies. How those trucks navigate over the busted road system is a mystery to me. Obviously the extra costs in repair and upkeep for the tens of thousands of trucks that supply our daily needs is passed on to us.
In its wisdom Congress cuts the Highway Trust Fund as wasteful expenses or takes the money for other purposes. As of today, the Highway Trust Fund is out of money. If our roads and bridges are failing our daily life will be directly effected. We know how to build and maintain our highways - we just have to have the will (both political and budgetary) to do so.
A good example of short-sighted decision making is the tendency to take money from the HTF to pay for mass transit. Sounds good, until you realize 17 percent of total federal user fees (gas taxes which are supposed to fund the Highway Trust Fund) go to mass transit in only six cities (Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco), even though mass transit's share of the nation’s surface travel amounted to roughly 1 percent and transit users pay nothing into the HTF.
Mass transit is good, but not if it guts the fund designed to keep our Interstate system functioning. That makes no sense.
I am spoiled: the roads, freeways, and Interstate system in the Phoenix area are in fabulous shape. I have become used to smooth, quiet, well-repaired roads. This trip has made it abundantly clear much of the rest of America isn't so lucky.
Our highways are essential in keeping our country and way of life intact. After the last six weeks driving on some of those vital links, I must report we are facing a serious problem.