A new study shows that Maryland's infrastructure -- specifically its roads and bridges -- are in much worse condition than Virginia's.
Live in the DMV long enough, and you'll notice the rivalry between Virginia and Maryland. Everything is compared and put under a microscope -- school districts, taxes, laws, you name it.
Well, a new study looked at road conditions in the DMV, and not only did Virginia win, but it wasn't even close.
The study performed by the website 24/7 Wall Street found that, on average, 11 percent of the nation's roads were in "poor condition." Maryland, however, scored a bit worse. An estimated 16.8 percent of roads in the Old Line State were rated in poor condition. By comparison, 8.7 percent of Virginia's roadways were found to be in poor condition. While Maryland roads ranked ninth-worst in the country, Virginia was middle of the pack at the 22nd spot.
The reasoning for this wide difference comes down to money. The Commonwealth of Virginia ranks in the top five states nationwide in terms of state highway spending, spending 9.2 percent of its budget on its highways. Maryland does spend more than the national average on highways, however, that still comes out to just 5.7 percent of its total budget.
The data becomes more interesting, however, when we look at the structural integrity of each state's bridges. In 2016, 6.7 percent of Virginia's bridges -- a total of 935 crossings -- were declared structurally deficient. Maryland's percentage was slightly lower, sitting at just 5.8 percent of all bridges in the state. The year-over-year numbers, however, show that Virginia is making significant improvements. Between 2015 and 2016, Virginia was able to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state by 12 percent. By comparison, the number of compromised bridges in Maryland actually slightly increased over the same time period. There were eight bridges in the District of Columbia that were identified as structurally deficient, however, three of those were federally owned and maintained.
All of this data points to a significant need to overhaul the DMV area's infrastructure. In addition to the safety concerns stemming from deteriorating infrastructure, these roads and bridges are also contributing to D.C. traffic and congestion. The D.C. metro area was recently ranked as the country's worst traffic commute. Take the Arlington Memorial Bridge, for example. Built in 1932, this bridge is actually one of the worst-maintained crossings -- not just in the DMV area, but also anywhere in the country. The National Park Service has warned that if it is not completely modernized, this busy crossing into D.C. could become unusable in just a matter of years. Given the fact that around 68,000 vehicles use the Arlington Memorial Bridge every day to enter and exit the nation's capital, its loss would have a devastating effect on D.C.-area traffic. The National Park Service announced earlier this year that it would spend $250,000,000 to restore the Arlington Memorial Bridge, one of the largest works projects in department history.
Infrastructure investment is something that keeps getting put off, and the longer we wait to repair our infrastructure, the more those repairs will cost. Even today, most spending goes towards repairs and not modernization, meaning that it is only a matter of time before more funds are necessary. Some estimates suggest that it would cost $2.4 trillion to just repair all of the country's roads and bridges. President Donald Trump has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure repair and reinvestment plan which, while lower than many estimates, would rely on private-public partnerships to fill some of the gap. However, with the current deadlock in Congress, it is unclear when an infrastructure bill will reach the floor.