The tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis is a stark reminder that too much of our transportation infrastructure is not well-maintained and requires extensive, costly investments to be fixed or even, in some cases, completely replaced.
Nearly a fifth of America's roads are now considered in poor shape and about one-in-four bridges is rated "structurally deficient." The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the cost to fix these problems is a staggering $460 billion.
Is more federal transportation money the answer? The problem is that 98% of our bridges and 97% of our roads are owned and operated by state and local governments -- and that these governments have often used past increases in federal transportation aid simply to replace their own infrastructure spending.
Instead, a few states and cities are now creatively turning to the private sector for help. They are partnering with private investors to build from scratch new toll roads, bridges and other infrastructure that the private owners -- not government -- will finance and operate. A few cash-strapped cities and states are also replenishing their transportation trust funds -- so that they can pour more money into repair and maintenance -- by auctioning off existing toll roads and bridges to private operators, who are bidding far more for these assets than most experts would have predicted.
~From today's WSJ editorial "How To Keep Our Bridges Safe"
Note: The original U.S. toll roads in the 18th and 19th century were privately owned, until taken over by state highway deparments in the early 1900s, click here for some history.