NACo Series: County Transportation Needs Are Greatest

The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently released part one of a two-part series titled “Growing counties need more transportation investment” highlighting county growth and the resulting need for transportation infrastructure.  The series indicates that as growth has occurred in the suburbs, counties have had to place a greater priority on providing well maintained roads and bridges to keep pace with traffic and  affordable transit.

Since 1950, the share of U.S. population in central cities has de­clined from 44 percent to 20 percent and the share of the suburbs has increased from 23 percent to more than 50 percent. For example, in the decade from 2000 to 2010:

While Washington, D.C. grew by 30,000, the suburbs surrounding it governed by counties in Virginia and Maryland grew by 740,000.

However, as demand was increasing during this time frame, many counties found they were not able to make ends meet.

When the economic collapse hit the nation in 2008, the bot­tom dropped out from the tax base of counties, cities and states alike. Instead of investing in the new transportation capacity for highways and transit that their communities needed, many were forced to cancel new construction, cut spending on road repair and reduce transit service.  Now that recovery is on the way, counties all over the country are looking for ways to restore transportation investment to the levels needed.

The author of this piece, NACo Past President John Horsley, closes by stating “Counties are where the need for transportation capacity is the greatest.”

Since 1980, the population of the U.S. has grown by 90 million, the number of vehicles on the road has increased by 93 million, and traffic has doubled. As I described earlier, because so much of this growth has taken place in areas for which counties are primarily responsible, they face the greatest challenge. They need to find the resources to maintain their roads, bridges and transit systems in good condition. They also need to add the new capacity needed.