Transportation Infrastructure in America

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The United States Road Network

The United States of America has almost four million miles of road linking cities and states. There are suburban streets as well as fifteen-lane interstate highways that help people and goods travel from one location to another. The two prominent types of facilities are suburban streets and interstate highways. In 2016, road networks transported goods and people over 3 trillion miles. Because of the increased need for road transportation, both the state and federal governments are constantly investing significant money in the construction, design, and maintenance of new highways. The Federal highway authorities often play critical roles in collecting and analyzing new ideas that can be applied in the design of new roads based on the nature of traffic in every region. With the advancement of the transportation systems, the highway engineers are constantly coming up with sophisticated designs capable of withstanding the ever-increasing traffic. The innovative ideas include the application of 3D engineering models capable of producing efficient and accurate construction and planning. The new techniques in the road construction also involve the methods to identify where, when and how to conserve pavement. Roads engineers are also doing continuous research to come up with new technology and materials to help roads become more resilient and comfortable. Some of the new technology includes the use of permeable materials in the design of the pavement structures. These materials often suppress the surface run-offs capable of causing damages to the parts of the road networks.

Faults in the Road Networks

Amidst the increase in technology in the road construction, most of the road networks still have faults that hinder the transportation activities. Most accidents occur because of the above faults. In some parts of the United States, there is evidence of portholes that and poor pavement systems that reduce flow of traffic (Ben-Daya et al. 23). In rural areas, the road networks in rural areas often develop cracks that interfere with the whole structure of the road, a situation that requires high maintenance cost and advanced technological systems. Most of the roads in the United States were constructed long time ago and the construction of most of them did not involve the consideration of the modern advanced transportation system involving the current heavy traffics that poses many threats to the weak structures on the roads. Considering the increased number of vehicles on the roads in the modern times, America's road networks are under strain, especially at the bridges and fly-over. Some of these structures were designed during the time when technology in road construction was low. Accompanied by the implacable increase in drivers, United State's roads are prone to traffic catastrophes like accidents, the collapse of bridges and different road networks (Petroski 19). America's road network is strained because of the age and the operational activities that keep on putting a lot of strain on the road structure. The United State's crisscrossing interstate road networks were constructed in the year 1956 by the Federal Highway authority to facilitate the interstate transportation system. These roads have long become the backbone of the road transportation leading to the development of various urban centers. The rise of towns has led to the increase in road usage across different counties; the high number of vehicles on the highways has led to the deterioration of some parts of the road structure.

Designs of the Road Structures

The concrete designs and tarmac applied in the design of roads in the 1960s do not last; they are prone to destruction from natural forces placed on the road surfaces (LePatner 27). The maintenance of the interstate roads usually becomes more expensive for the economy, hence failure to carry out renovation processes. Natural forces such as landslides are some of the forces that lead to the destruction of the road structures. As the road networks ages, the resources put aside for the drivable situations increase endlessly; the older the road structure, the more expensive they become during maintenance. For instance, Massachusetts's department of transportation applies close to one billion US dollars in maintaining and improving highways in the year 2010, consequently, the organization, in 2007 spent 500 million for a similar project (Cohen 42). America's road transportation system is a complicated assortment of various subsystems, consisting of different forms of movement. The surface transportation system involves waterways that are designed to enhance the operation of the drainage system. Most of the American roads lack definite drainage system capable of protecting the roads from the surface run-offs. Majority of faults on the roads are because of poorly designed waterways that drain the surface water flows on the critical structure of the roads. The entire elements of the road transportation system have analogous challenges that result from ever-increasing advancing age, demand as well as the insufficient funding. The United State's roads also lack inclusive coordination and planning amongst the transportation modes, a situation that normally limits the capability of operating within an integrated transport system (Kanter 22). There are numerous policies that have been designed to focus on the American highways including roads and bridges to indicate wider challenges faced by different transportation modes. Bridges and highways are often regarded as the backbone of the United States transformation system; they act as the country's critical artery of commerce and economic activities. The vehicles plying routes through bridges and different highways remain to be the main mode of transport in the United States of America. The road transportation accounts for close to 89 percent of the country's transport system (Marcuson 19). On the other hand, when compared to roads, air transport only constitutes eight percent of the transportation.

Components of the Road structure

During the road construction in the early 60s, the United States highway authority incorporated several structures such as the sewage systems underneath the roads and when heavy traffic passes through the roads, these structures are usually under threat of damages (Mirza 17). The old sewage networks are usually made of none-flexible materials, mostly from concrete materials that cannot resist the heavy weight of traffic exerted above the road surface. When heavy commercial vehicles overloaded with goods move on the roads, their weight can destroy the old sewer lines and the result may be very difficult to control especially in big cities. When the sections of the sewer lines develop cracks, repairing can be very costly, it may mean destroying the sections of the roads to access the damaged parts of the sewage networks. There are trucks designed with fewer wheels but they are supposed to carry heavy loads. With few feels, the pressure exerted on the road surface can become so great resulting in the destruction of the road surface. Repairing highways is always a complex and an expensive process, which usually leads to the high traffic jams and delay in the transportation of goods. The heavy truck that surpasses the standard weight required on the roads can squash the roads to the asphalt and gravel layers thereby leading to the formation of ruts on the outer and middle surface of the roads. Since it is usually difficult to drive across the ruts and successfully follow them, there are road users that stick to them and after a long period, they often tend to become worse. On concrete roads, once the crack is formed, the freeze-thaw weathering will initiate withering of layers of the roads in every winter season. Heavily loaded trucks usually possess high momentum and when they brake, there is always a sudden horizontal pressure exerted on the road, a scenario that may facilitate the rate of deterioration. Allowing the trucks to carry the recommended amount of loads may enable the proper use of the road networks; the practice may also ensure the usage of the roads for a long period. In addition to the sewer line, there is also water pipes often found under the road, these pipes are also prone to destructions (Frangopol 28).

Restrictions on Road Transportation

Road transportation system in the United States involves measures that aim at protecting the structure of the roads. The federal highway authority stipulates that there are highways that are not safe for heavy commercial vehicles. These road networks consist of weaknesses that have long been created over a given period due to continuous pressure by heavy commercial vehicles. The above situation led to the introduction of weighbridges to control the weight of heavy commercial vehicles that often pose many threats to the weak structures of the roads (Braun 31). American economy relies on the older roads that were designed to support the heaviest vehicles at the time. However, the advancement in technology and the need to transport more goods have led to the development of heavy trucks capable of handling large tons of goods at the same time. These trucks have high horsepower and they are capable of traveling long distances on different highways (Forman 25). With the improvement of the vehicles and the persistent use of the older road structures, there is a possibility of destruction on many sections of the road. There are culverts, bridges, and other structures that were incorporated in the construction of the old road structures. With the emergence of the new and heavier commercial vehicles, these structures are at risk of breaking down since they cannot withstand the weight of the heavy modern traffic. Limiting the weight of the vehicles on the roads can prevent the destruction of various components of road structures. The road network authorities should measure the conditions of different routes before deciding on the appropriate weight suitable for specific roads. In some cases, the average weight stipulated by the regulators may not suit some roads that can only support small vehicles.


Road transportation in the United States supports the economy largely; it constitutes 88% of the total transportation activities in the entire American economy. In the year 2016, the road infrastructure ferried goods and people for over 3 trillion miles. Because of the increasing road transportation activities, both the state and the federal government are constantly putting many resources into the construction, design, and maintenance of new roads. Consequently, the designs and structures of the road structures are on the rise due to the advancement in technology aimed at producing the durable structures.

Works Cited

Ben-Daya, Mohamed, Uday Kumar, and DN Prabhakar Murthy. Introduction to maintenance engineering: modeling, optimization, and management. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

Braun, Erin, and Aryn Schounce. Transportation Infrastructure. Working paper of Policy Choices for Indiana’s Future project. Indianapolis: Indiana University Public Policy Institute, 2011.

Cohen, Bonner R. "Fixing America’s crumbling underground water infrastructure." Issue Anal 4 (2012).

Forman, Richard TT. Road ecology: science and solutions. Island Press, 2013.

Frangopol, Dan M., and Min Liu. "Maintenance and management of civil infrastructure based on condition, safety, optimization, and life-cycle cost∗." Structure and infrastructure engineering 3.1 (2007): 29-41.

Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. Move: How to Rebuild and Reinvent America's Infrastructure: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead. WW Norton & Company, 2015.

LePatner, Barry B. Too big to fall: America's failing infrastructure and the way forward. UPNE, 2010.

Marcuson III, William F. "Fixing America's Crumbling Infrastructure: A Call to Action for All." Public Works Management & Policy 12.3 (2008): 473-475.

Mirza, Saeed. "Durability and sustainability of infrastructure—A state-of-the-art report." Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering 33.6 (2016): 639-649.

Petroski, Henry. The Road Taken: The History and Future of America's Infrastructure. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2016.

December 08, 2022

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