Saturday, April 27, 2013

Six Miles of National Park Highway to be Repaved at $400 per Foot

Photos of Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This photo of Newfound Gap Road is courtesy of TripAdvisor     
    A search for the words "crumbling roads" turns up so many hits on White House website that it's a wonder Americans have not been forced to resort to pack mules and wagon trains to travel from place to place.  Throw "bridges" into the mix, and one might think the word "ford" will become less familiar as a car brand and more common as a way to cross rivers.  The President and his administration have been talking about repairing this country's infrastructure for half a decade now, but apparently we haven't gotten very far.
    A contract recently awarded to repave a six mile stretch of two-lane highway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee sheds some light on at least one reason.  It's expensive.  How expensive?  Try $408.52 per foot.  That's $34 per inch.
    To be fair, the work goes a little beyond paving.  Here's how the project was described when first put out for bids in October 2012:
 The project consists of the rehabilitation and resurfacing of approximately 6.1 miles of Newfound Gap Road from TN Milepost 6.3 to TN Milepost 12.4, including roadside pullouts and parking areas. The work includes asphalt pavement milling, full-depth pavement patching, shoulder stabilization, Superpave asphalt concrete pavement overlay, stone masonry and guardwall repairs, steel-backed timber guardrail, drainage, and other miscellaneous work.
    Initially, and somewhat optimistically it appears, "the cost of the entire project expected to fall within the price range of greater than $10,000,000."  In the end, the contract award was for $13,157,725.58.  And although the cost of projects I researched vary greatly, this contract is by no means out of line.
    While $13 million sounds like a lot, consider this: The US Highway system consists of 160,000 miles of highway.  While not all highways are two lanes, using the 160,000 miles as a base number and the $408.52 per foot price tag for the Great Smoky Mountains job, the entire highway system could be repaved for a mere $345 billion.  Again, sounds like a lot; but on the other hand, the entire federal government currently blows through $345 billion every month.  For taxpayers tired of spending trillions with little to show for it, at least fixing the highways would yield concrete results.  (Pun definitely intended.)

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