Ky. Voices: Roads are in decay, why build a new one?

Craig N. Carter, a University of Kentucky professor, lives in Jessamine County.
Craig N. Carter, a University of Kentucky professor, lives in Jessamine County.

Our nation's highway system is truly the envy of the world. It has enabled the United States to industrialize and allows our populace to travel freely to anywhere in the country.

Our road system is 4 million miles long, is functionally well evolved and, with a few minor exceptions, complete.

An inherent problem in all of this is Americans love to build things, but either don't understand the importance or simply don't want to invest in maintaining these crucial resources.

In 2008, a government blue-ribbon panel stated that the U.S. needs to invest $130 billion annually to maintain the existing road system. Unfortunately, only about $30 billion is actually being spent. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave American highways a grade of D-minus on their report card in 2009.

Furthermore, over 20 percent of our nation's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The Minneapolis bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed in 2007, killing 13 and hospitalizing 98.

Kentucky's existing road and bridge system is representative or likely in worse shape than that seen in other states. It is fiscally and socially irresponsible to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new road, the I-75 connector to Nicholasville, when our existing road system is in a shambles.

Why not propose a project to widen and fix what we have? This will also result in quicker and safer access to our cities that wish to grow. At the same time, it will help to preserve the pristine beauty, clean environment and history of the Bluegrass which attracts our strong tourism, new businesses and citizens who want to live here, have children and pay lots of taxes.

The theme of the I-75 project which can be found its website is "Improving Mobility for Central Kentucky." I think we all agree that we need to do that, let's just do it the smart way by expanding and maintaining our existing roads and bridges. This will maximize the benefit, safety and positive impact of every precious dollar invested in our roads and bridges. The savings can then be wisely invested in other programs such as schools, hospitals and scholarships.

Surely, we owe this to our children, grandchildren and beyond.

The United States debt is now greater than it's gross domestic product. More simply stated, we are broke. As in our own households, we cannot make wasteful and irresponsible decisions regarding spending. When our home needs a new roof, we don't build a new house. We fix the roof.

I respectfully propose a new paradigm for growth in the United States. When it comes time for our local leadership to vote on this issue, I ask that they raise the bar, lead the nation in doing what is right: Vote "no" on the I-75 connector.

Let's repair and maintain the magnificent system that is already in place.