Dec 28, 2000


Highway dollars spell 'safety'

Over the past few years, a lot of attention has been given to the quality
of European pavements vs. those in the U.S. But the one undeniable factor
that separates the U.S. highway system from any other in the world is safety.

While critics of our nation's highway system point to Europe as an example
of what U.S. highways should be, and others want to see more and more money
drained from highway coffers and spent on but poorly ridden mass transit,
they should all consider the safety factor. If our highway system is not
adequately funded-at least to the point where we can properly maintain our
roads-not only will our roads further deteriorate, but safety, and ultimately
the traveling public, will suffer.

Safety should be an industry call to arms as discussions heat up regarding
reauthorization of the federal highway bill known as the Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). The six-year bill is due
to expire Sept. 30 of next year.

A report illustrating the importance of safety on our interstate system
was issued in July by the American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA), Washington,
D.C. According to the report, The Best Investment a Nation Ever Made, safety
standards imposed when the interstate system was designed have saved 187,000
lives over the past 40 years-more than the population of either Dayton,
Ohio, or Salt Lake City.

The report was presented July 18 at a Capitol Hill press conference to Rep.
Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), House Transportation Committee Chairman, and Rep. Jim
Oberstar (D-Minn.), the ranking Democratic member on the committee. "As
this report so clearly states, the benefits of the Interstate Highway System
to our citizens' safety and economic well-being are enormous," Shuster
said. "For the past 40 years, the interstate system has served as an
engine for economic growth by returning $6 for every $1 spent on its construction,
all the while improving the everyday lives of millions of Americans. It's
an investment we must protect for future generations."

Key findings in the report in reference to the interstate system and safety

  • It has prevented injuries to nearly 12 million people, and
  • For each mile of urban interstate highway constructed, more than four
    lives have been saved and 250 injuries have been avoided.

According to AHUA, the report specifically states that safety features required
of the interstate system-such as controlled access to interstates, no intersections,
adequate shoulders, and a requirement that interstates be divided and have
at least four wide traffic lanes-have "reduced traffic accidents, saved
lives and reduced injuries."

"I urge the members of the House Transportation Committee to consider
the economic and safety benefits of the Interstate Highway System as the
debate over the Surface Transportation Act [ISTEA] begins in the upcoming
months," said Bill Fay, AHUA president. "We must not let a national
treasure like our interstate
system deteriorate."

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