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Accidents Will Happen: The Aging of Connecticut’s Streets and Highways

Accidents Will Happen: The Aging of Connecticut’s Streets and Highways

Jessica Post tripped, fell and was injured on her way to work in Stonington. She suffered lacerations and swelling in her leg, but why she was injured was the real story. She had stepped and falling in a sinkhole on the street in front of her home.

Sinkholes are not often thought to be exceptional, but like a “canary in a coal mine,” they are not simply a sign of a deteriorating street in Stonington, but an exemplar of a growing problem for cities across Connecticut and the nation.

Are They Really Freeways?

Streets and highways are a deceptive thing; they are so common and ordinary that most drivers never give them a thought. Unfortunately, politicians have taken that attitude for the better part of the last 40 years, and we now all are beginning to pay the price.

With the advent of the automobile, a great program of road construction began last century. Roads were paved, bridges built, two-lane roads became four, six and eight-lane superhighways. The national interstate highway system was built.

If You Build It, They Will Drive

With the highways came the drivers. In 1955, the national highway system carried 65 million cars and trucks. According to the American Association of State Highway and transportation officials, the number in 2007 had increased 246 million.

No New Taxes

The completion of Interstate highway system in the 1980s coincided with a movement to cut government spending. New spending was limited, and as the years when by, maintenance and repairs were increasingly deferred. This policy was feasible when the bulk of highways were new. Now, as all levels of infrastructure reach or pass their design life, it becomes more problematic.

As the Great Recession drags on, states and cities struggle to meet the demands placed on them. Much road maintenance is funded by gas taxes, which often have not been increased in decades and the revenue has fallen in recent years, as people drive less due to job loss and the poor economy.

Roads can cause many types of accidents, whether because of poor design, becoming out dated for current traffic conditions, or due to a failure of adequate maintenance, and some accidents and injuries can be more severe because of these deficiencies.

While many cities and municipalities in Connecticut have deferred maintenance and repairs, people, like Jessica Post, continue to suffer injures. The municipalities cannot defer lawsuits that stem from their failure to maintain their roads.