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Old April 19th, 2009, 06:09 PM   #921
ir desi
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The real problem with infrastructure in the US is spending. At first glance, the spending on road transport looks adequate, around 3% of GDP. However, there are 3 really major problems:

1) Much of the underlying infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life. Bridges are a big problem - we're having one significant bridge failure per week. Because many are around 50 years old, they need replacement. That's why 3% is just not adequate.

2) Because of substandard rail transport, both the highway and air systems are bloated. Ironically, both of those systems cost more to maintain per user-mile than rail, and yet the public screams about rail not supporting itself...hmm...
At the same time, US travel distances are enormous. There is thus more road and air infrastructure per taxpayer than in European countries.

3) Much of the highway expenditure goes to maintaining suburban freeways. These roads, often with 8 regular travel lanes, HOV lanes, and service lanes, are a gigantic drain on money. Boston, normally thought of as a compact urban city, has a suburban area that extends ~60 miles in every direction. Boston has 3 beltways: I-95 at 10 miles out, 8 lanes; I-495 at 25 miles out, 6 lanes; I-190/I-290/MA RI-146/I-195 at 40-60 miles out, 4-6 lanes. None of these beltways are toll roads, so they place immense strain on state and federal budgets. Moreover, none of them really serve intercity traffic - this massive highway infrastructure is just for suburban commuters using it and wearing it down every day.

Of course, none of this would be a problem if we recognized the true cost of our highway habit. I think Europeans really recognize the cost of the highways because they feel it in the tax they pay every time they fill up. I think the US either needs a much higher gas tax, or massive implementation of tolls. Sadly, I don't think either is likely to happen.
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Old April 19th, 2009, 06:13 PM   #922
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ir desi View Post
1) Much of the underlying infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life. Bridges are a big problem - we're having one significant bridge failure per week. Because many are around 50 years old, they need replacement.
What engineer plans a bridge for 50 years? 100 is the minimum!
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Old April 19th, 2009, 06:14 PM   #923
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What engineer plans a bridge for 50 years? 100 is the minimum!
Not in 1954.
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Old April 19th, 2009, 06:19 PM   #924
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Not in 1954.
Sure?
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Old April 19th, 2009, 06:41 PM   #925
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A lot of American infrastructure was build between wars or in wars, like the Korean war, and there was a shortage of good quality materials, so many bridges and roadways were build with insufficient materials.

But I think we will see the same problem in Europe when motorways and bridges become 60 years old. They already have that problem in Belgium, but also in the Netherlands.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 01:17 AM   #926
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There are a few things I just dislike about American highways:
- The signage contains way too much text. Not talking about destinations, talking about "Keep left", "Keep right" (just use arrows, much simpler), "Exit" (a symbol would be much easier to spot), "Exit only" (well, just use an arrow pointing right up or down).
Note: this seems to depend from region to region, so it may not be valid in several areas.
- Too many lanes to be effective sometimes (4 should be the absolute maximum. After 4, split it up in groups)
- Those stretches where there are just bolts in the road instead of proper lines. Just doesn't look very safe if you'd drive over them and it's rainy.
- Some areas I've seen just seem so unnecessarily complicated.

Apart from that though, they're a great achievement considering the size of the USA. The next challenge is going to be maintaining it all. European roads aren't perfect either. They have a small edge in my opinion, but that's mainly due to history I think and it would be unfair to laugh about that now.

Greetings,
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Old April 20th, 2009, 01:39 AM   #927
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisZwolle View Post
A lot of American infrastructure was build between wars or in wars, like the Korean war, and there was a shortage of good quality materials, so many bridges and roadways were build with insufficient materials.

But I think we will see the same problem in Europe when motorways and bridges become 60 years old. They already have that problem in Belgium, but also in the Netherlands.
At least you guys will have the money to fix them up,
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Old April 20th, 2009, 02:51 AM   #928
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Glodenox, I actually really like the way they do road signage in the US. To me it feels very intuitive. You don't really notice the keep-left/keep right after a while, and you go by the arrows. Also, the exit-only is one of the most important designations. If there is exit-only labeled (and to simplify it further, if there is a yellow stripe running the bottom of the sign), then it pretty clearly tells you that you need to get out of that lane if you are not taking the exit, unlike a normal exit.

I would definitely agree on too many lanes. Laws of diminishing returns make 4 lanes the realistic max for a single carriageway. Beyond that, and service/express lanes should be implemented. Still, I think there is a problem with the entire transportation system when any highway needs more than 4 lanes traveling in a single direction. If you have enough traffic for 8 lanes total, it's time for rail.

Another point to make: Besides the fact that US pavement is thinner, the cars are also much heavier, due to our never-ending love for the Escalade and Suburban.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 10:45 AM   #929
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At least you guys will have the money to fix them up,
Doubtful.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 10:54 AM   #930
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Oh the money is there. Actually, there is like 3 - 4 times enough money to maintain + improving roads, but that's spend otherwise. The budget only increases with inflation, but the projects costs have increased way more than inflation since the late 1970's, so you cannot do the same amount of projects with that budget.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 12:09 PM   #931
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So you're saying the money is there, but it isn't? I'm confused

Far as I know most the money collected from gas and road tax isn't actually spent on infrastructure at all. So there's that theory out the window.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 12:13 PM   #932
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Yes, gas taxes, road taxes and registration fees total about 15 billion euros annually, but they spend like 2.5 billion on the freeways and national roads. Provincial and municipal spending can be added up to that, but is not really significant.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 12:52 PM   #933
J N Winkler
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In the US spending on roads is 90% covered by revenues collected from the highway user. The federal government and a large number of states have rules stipulating that highway user revenues must be spent on roads, although there are a variety of get-out clauses. For instance, Texas requires that one-quarter of its state gas tax be spent on education rather than roads, and the federal government distributes some highway user revenues to the Mass Transit Account, which is used for capital improvements on transit networks.

Many of the highway user revenues which "leak" out of the system through being spent on other things are replaced by funds arising from sources not related specifically to highways, e.g. property taxes (used for local roads where access to property is the primary function) and sales taxes (cf. the "sales-tax freeways", often constructed by so-called "regional measure agencies" in places like California).

In most European countries highway user revenues are between two to five times the total spending on roads. This means that European road networks would, arguably, be overfunded if all highway user revenues were spent on them. I think, however, that the prospects of this happening are virtually nil in most countries.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 01:34 PM   #934
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J N Winkler View Post
In most European countries highway user revenues are between two to five times the total spending on roads. This means that European road networks would, arguably, be overfunded if all highway user revenues were spent on them. I think, however, that the prospects of this happening are virtually nil in most countries.
If we (Netherlands) spent all the highway user revenues on infrastructure, we'd be lining our highways with diamonds rather than white paint
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Old April 20th, 2009, 01:58 PM   #935
H123Laci
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Originally Posted by ir desi View Post
I think Europeans really recognize the cost of the highways because they feel it in the tax they pay every time they fill up.
nope.

we pay gas tax for fun (and for the general budget which redistribute it for social expenditures - check my signature) and we pay toll for highways...
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Old April 20th, 2009, 08:14 PM   #936
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Well one thing i can say is that Europe can handle faster speeds quicker and have better reactions from what ive seen.
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Old April 20th, 2009, 08:29 PM   #937
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nope.

we pay gas tax for fun (and for the general budget which redistribute it for social expenditures - check my signature) and we pay toll for highways...

I second that. In hungary all car-related taxes are in the neighbourhood of 700 bn Huf (~2 bn USD), yet the complete road budget is not even half of that...
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Old April 21st, 2009, 12:04 AM   #938
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Oh yeah and the spanish and italians and Greeks care bloody crazy drivers!
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Old April 21st, 2009, 12:38 AM   #939
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ir desi View Post
Glodenox, I actually really like the way they do road signage in the US. To me it feels very intuitive. You don't really notice the keep-left/keep right after a while, and you go by the arrows. Also, the exit-only is one of the most important designations. If there is exit-only labeled (and to simplify it further, if there is a yellow stripe running the bottom of the sign), then it pretty clearly tells you that you need to get out of that lane if you are not taking the exit, unlike a normal exit.
Hmm, I see. Well, I can imagine it'd become very intuitive after a while. I'm just personally more in favour of arrows. That's partly because I'm used to them, but also because they're not language-specific (but that isn't really a big problem in the USA of course - unlike in Europe). The text "exit-only" can also perfectly be replaced with arrows pointing more to the right (and the other ones pointing straight forward). I do like the yellow marking though on the bottom of those signs, it catches the attention more than arrows do.

I think I'll just blame my habit of travelling through countries with different languages for my preference here

Oh by the way: forgot to mention that I also like the whole wind directions (North, East, South, West) information on the signs in the USA. It's sad it'd be very hard to implement something like that on European roads considering they aren't built in a grid system like most of the USA's roads are.

Greetings,
Glodenox
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Old April 21st, 2009, 12:48 AM   #940
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisZwolle View Post
Oh the money is there. Actually, there is like 3 - 4 times enough money to maintain + improving roads, but that's spend otherwise. The budget only increases with inflation, but the projects costs have increased way more than inflation since the late 1970's, so you cannot do the same amount of projects with that budget.
I think that when he was talking about money he was implying resources. Not money in the strict sense of a transaction service.

Anyhow the USA is a big country which is less densely populated than Europe. Also, it is not in every sense the same nation it was a few decades ago, resource wise. Still I think a big part of the issue with certain infrastructure not being maintained as good as it could be has to do with budget priority.


Quote:
Originally Posted by J N Winkler View Post
In the US spending on roads is 90% covered by revenues collected from the highway user. The federal government and a large number of states have rules stipulating that highway user revenues must be spent on roads, although there are a variety of get-out clauses. For instance, Texas requires that one-quarter of its state gas tax be spent on education rather than roads, and the federal government distributes some highway user revenues to the Mass Transit Account, which is used for capital improvements on transit networks.

Many of the highway user revenues which "leak" out of the system through being spent on other things are replaced by funds arising from sources not related specifically to highways, e.g. property taxes (used for local roads where access to property is the primary function) and sales taxes (cf. the "sales-tax freeways", often constructed by so-called "regional measure agencies" in places like California).

In most European countries highway user revenues are between two to five times the total spending on roads. This means that European road networks would, arguably, be overfunded if all highway user revenues were spent on them. I think, however, that the prospects of this happening are virtually nil in most countries.

Good points.
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