Think tank: Obama’s warning about ‘crumbling roads’ overblown

The Reason Foundation said “all 50 states lowered their highway fatality rates from 1989 to 2008 and 40 states reduced their deficient bridges during that time.

“Nationwide, the number of deficient bridges in the country fell from 37.8 percent of all bridges in 1989 to 23.7 percent in 2008,” the release on the study said.

In a renewed pitch that began in his State of the Union address, Obama painted a starkly different pitch of the state of the American transportation system.

“Tonight, I propose a ‘Fix-It-First’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country,” Obama said in his address, exhorting lawmakers to get started on the repairs “right away.” 

Obama's proposal is a repackaging of the transportation proposals from his 2011 "American Jobs Act." The plan calls for spending $40 billion on “most urgent upgrades” to transportation infrastructure. The remaining $10 billion of the plan would go toward the creation of a national infrastructure bank, which Obama has also called for in the past.

Congress approved some pieces of Obama's 2011 Jobs Act, but the transportation funding languished amid Republican complaints that it was a rehash of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

The author of the Reason Foundation study, former University of North Carolina at Charlotte transportation professor David Hartgen, urged caution on approving the spending infusion now.

“There are still plenty of problems to fix, but our roads and bridges aren't crumbling," Hartgen said in a statement released by the Reason Foundation.

"The overall condition of the state-controlled road system is getting better and you can actually make the case that it has never been in better shape,” Hartgen continued. “The key going forward is to target spending where it will do the most good."

The full Reason Foundation report on infrastructure conditions can be read here.