Ministers release national highway studies

OTTAWA — Canada’s provincial transportation ministers yesterday officially released a report that says the nation’s highways will require $17 billion to fix.

The study, comprised of three reports, was commissioned by the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. It details the condition of Canadian highways and the benefits of highway investment to the economy.

The findings were leaked to the National Post newspaper two weeks ago.

The main report, “Condition and Investment Needs Update,” concludes that $17.4 billion is required to bring the 25,000-kilometre designated National Highway System to acceptable standards. Such an investment would generate $30 billion in economic benefits over 25 years through savings in travel time, increased safety, and reduced vehicle operating costs, the report said.

Also, reduced congestion and better highway standards could be expected to save 247 lives a year and reduce injury accidents by up to 16,000 per year, according to the report.

Governments have invested over $8 billion in capital improvements and $3 billion in maintenance in the national highway system in the past decade — annual expenditures on the system are currently twice the levels reported in 1988 — but the condition of the roads has declined, the report found..

Provincial governments, largely responsible for highway maintenance, have appealed to the federal government for more funding. Currently, the federal government collects about $4 billion in fuel tax revenue each year; the money is considered general revenue, and is not earmarked for highway projects.

Among other key findings:

> Through reduced congestion, over a 25-year horizon the expected present value of benefits of highway improvements would save $30 billion, comprising $22 billion in travel-time savings; $5.8 billion in highway safety improvements; $2.9 billion in reduced vehicle operating costs; and $1.3 billion in network benefits.

> Over 25 years, the expected net present value of investing the required capital in upgrading the National Highway System was estimated to be in the order of $13.1 billion.

> Reducing congestion and improving the level of service provided by the NHS is expected to reduce fuel consumption by up to 236 million litres per year.

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