The United States is is dire need of transportation infrastructure investment. The costs of failing infrastructure – wasted time, lost productivity, complications in freight movement, poor public-health outcomes, and increased carbon emissions – hurt all Americans. America now spends less on infrastructure, as a share of GDP, than fifty years ago.
Underfunding has allowed infrastructure to deteriorate, costing the nation and individual states more in the long-run. As infrastructure ages, more revenue must be spent on maintenance. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has reported that the United States would need to spend $3.6 trillion by 2020 to fix and maintain existing infrastructure.
The Midwest has not been immune to these trends. The Midwest’s transportation systems must be modernized to alleviate congestion, reduce motorist costs and injuries, and provide a world-class infrastructure that attracts businesses to locate in the region. Not investing in infrastructure is costing motorists more per year in vehicle damages, costing productive workers additional time in congestion, and costing businesses revenue due to transportation inefficiencies.
Below, data are collected from the ASCE Infrastructure Report Cards on Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to compare each state’s transportation infrastructure needs. Approximately 14.6 percent of public roads in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are in poor condition. Iowa has the smallest share of poor roads (10 percent) and Wisconsin has the largest share of poor roads (21 percent). On the other hand, Iowa has the largest percent of bridges in bad condition, with 20.7 percent of the state’s bridges being structurally deficient.
Poor road infrastructure costs Midwestern motorists hundreds of dollars a year in added vehicle repairs. Due to the poor condition of the roads, motorists experience dangerous driving conditions and increased accidents. Underinvestment in road repairs causes the average Indiana motorist $391 per year in vehicle repairs and the average Wisconsin motorist $502 per year in vehicle repairs. Overall, poor roads cost Midwest motorists a total of $9.9 billion a year in back-end personal costs ($3.7 billion in Illinois, $2.1 billion in Indiana, $935 million in Iowa, $1.2 billion in Minnesota, and $2.0 billion in Wisconsin).
The Midwest is extremely connected with the U.S. railroad network. Wisconsin ranks 14th in the nation in rail, while Illinois has the 2nd-most rail mileage in America. The Midwest is a great place to do business in part because of the high connectivity to rail and efficiencies associated with freight transportation.
Increased infrastructure investment would improve the region’s business climate and grow the economy.