New Report Finds Deferred Road Repair a Financial Time Bomb for Many States, Including Oregon

Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads

June 1, 2011

Decades of spending on new road construction, instead of regular repair, have left many states’ roads in poor condition, and the cost of pushing back repairs is growing at an alarming rate each year. A new report from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense examines road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

How does Oregon fare?  Not so well. About half the state’s roads are in good repair, which is average among the states.  But Oregon spends far less on repair and maintenance as a percentage of the state’s road budget than most states, which means Oregon will not keep up even on those “good” roads.

The report, Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads, found that between 2004 and 2008 states spent only 43 percent of total road construction and preservation funds on repair, while the remaining 57 percent of funds went to new construction. That means that 57 percent of the money was spent on one percent of the road network, while 43 percent of the money was dedicated to maintaining 99 percent of the system.  As a result of these spending decisions, road conditions in many states are getting worse and costs for taxpayers are going up. 

The report recommends changes at both the state and federal level that can reduce future costs, benefit taxpayers, and create a better transportation system.

“Oregon is making tough budget decisions; we need to reduce costs by shifting more of our existing transportation funds toward road repair. This will save Oregonians money in the future and maintain the high quality roads we need,” said Jason Miner, 1000 Friends of Oregon Executive Director. “We ask Governor Kitzhaber and legislative leadership to prioritize transportation investments for the state’s fiscal health. Oregon has a large backlog of roads in poor condition and we need to stick to a responsible strategy to improve our infrastructure.”

“Spending too little on repair and allowing roads to fall apart exposes states and the federal government to huge financial liabilities,” said Roger Millar of Smart Growth America. “The cost of repair rises as roads age, and fiscally responsible leaders will recognize that prioritizing funding for repair isn’t just a matter of smoother roads, it’s a matter of protecting taxpayers from future costs.”

Oregon’s current conditions and spending priorities

As of 2008, 43 percent of Oregon’s state-owned major roads were not in good condition.  These roads will be increasingly expensive to repair as maintenance is pushed farther back. Only 55 percent of Oregon’s roads were in good condition. Between 2004 and 2008 Oregon spent $155 million annually on repair.

Oregon would need to spend $416 million annually for the next twenty years to get the current backlog of poor-condition major roads into a state of good repair and maintain all state-owned roads in good condition. Delaying those repairs will only become more costly for the state. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6-14 needed later to rebuild the same road once it has deteriorated significantly.

Click here to see an interactive map showing how other states are faring.

More information about the high cost of delaying road repair, how other states invest their transportation dollars to cut costs and what leaders can do to address these concerns is available in the full report, at

Press Contacts: Mary Kyle McCurdy, 1000 Friends of Oregon, 503-497-1000 x130,

Abigail Gardner, Smart Growth America, 202-207-3355 x156,