The study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, states that if the system does not prepare for the new challenges, there might be a hazard to become unsustainable. Extreme weather conditions and climate change could cause safety issues and increase the maintenance costs.
The system was introduced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to enable safe and efficient transportation across the States. Consisting 1% of public roads in the U.S., the interstates carry about 25% of vehicles and 50% of heavy trucks miles traveled. They are the safest roadways in the country, however, due to their heavy load, still 5,000 deaths are reported annually.
Some forthcoming changes are decided to be implemented by the committee of the system. Bridges, pavements and other infrastructure will be renovated in order to become safer and increase their capacity. The roadways must also adapt to country's growing population and new technologies that are introduced. New, faster construction methods, more durable construction materials and electronic systems are some advances that will improve the system's quality.
The committee suggested that an organization named Interstate Highway System Renewal and Modernization Program (RAMP) should be legislated so that the federal government would lead the operations, expand the funding while the states would be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the roadways. At the moment, $25 billion are required to preserve the highways network annually. The implementation of the new changes would demand $45-$70 billion per year. However, the committee states that these estimates might be low as they do not include the reconstruction of 15,000 interchanges and the system adaption to the effects of climate change.
Norman Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. and chair of the committee stated: “The interstates have long been the backbone of our country’s transportation system, but most of them have exceeded their design lives and in many places are worn and overused. These aging interstates are highly congested oftentimes and in need of reconstruction. Furthermore, technological advances are offering new opportunities, but they may also undermine a principal source of income for the interstates, namely the tax on fuel. We recommend a course of action that is aggressive and ambitious, but by no means novel. Essentially, we need a reinvigoration of the federal and state partnership that produced the Interstate Highway System in the first place.”