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Iowa DOT Chief Takes Novel Approach to Transportation Infrastructure

The strategy of Iowa's Department of Transportation chief, Paul Trombino III, for maintaining the state's "25,000 bridges, 114,000 miles of roadway, and more than 4,000 miles of rail" is not to do so. In a word, "shrinkage" is part of the solution.
November 27, 2015, 1pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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Shrinkage is by no means a new concept for Planetizen readers—it's been applied to cities like Detroit and Youngstown where the population has shrunk, leaving vacant housing that has become blighted.

It's time the term was applied to transportation as limited state budgets simply can not keep up with infrastructure demands, suggests Trombino III, who was elected as association president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) on September 28.

Trombino III "said it’s not affordable for the state to maintain Iowa’s current transportation system, and, furthermore, it’s not necessary to do so," writes Jill Kasparie, reporter for KCRG-TV9. [Video appears with article.]

The state is putting money into a focused number of projects instead of trying to fix up the entire outdated system.

At the end of the video, Kasparie is asked why the system should shrink after the legislature voted to increase the gas tax by 10-cents in February. She responds that critical roads do need improvement, but to maintain the entire system would be unaffordable, she responds.

Indeed, no one should get the idea that Iowa is pursuing a "shrink the transportation system" analogous to older cities treatment of vacant housing stock. As noted after the gas tax increase took effect on March 1, highway expansions are very much part of Iowa's transportation planning.

Trombino III's point is timely. Consider the November 23 release of "Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015: Prescriptions for Healthier Highways" that calls for 'unchoking the bottlenecks' and the anticipated finalization next week of the first six-year transportation reauthorization bill since 2005.

Federal transportation funding will not be increasing, and even for states that substantially increase transportation funding (gas tax increased over 44% in the Hawkeye State), "winnowing" needs to be considered if states want to pursue the 'improvements' suggest by the American Highway Users Alliance.

And not just for roads. Route Fifty calls attention to the "61,030 of 607,013 bridges (that) were deemed structurally deficient as of last year, according to figures in the 2015 edition of the Transportation Department's 'State Transportation Statistics' issued on Nov. 13."

Hat tip: AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

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Published on Monday, November 23, 2015 in KCRG-TV9
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