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    Mobility policy

    Large backlog in road construction investments

    No other mode of transport guarantees such a high level of accessibility over a wide area. This is why the automotive industry demands needs-based state investment in the road network.

    No other mode of transport guarantees such a high level of accessibility over a wide area. This is why the automotive industry demands needs-based state investment in the road network.

    In 2019 drivers spent half a million hours in traffic jams

    Roads are the backbone of our transportation network. Germany's intercity roads alone are almost 230,000 km long. Added to this are around 660,000 km of local roads. No other mode of transport guarantees such a high level of accessibility over a wide area; the network capability of road traffic is unique.

    The automotive industry thus demands needs-based state investment in maintaining and extending the road network.

    For many years, however, far too little has been invested in the German road network. In 2016, the Federal Ministry of Transport assumed that, to keep up with demand, around 7 billion euros would have to be invested to finance the trunk roads (autobahn and federal roads) alone. The Institute of the German Economy had even estimated over 8 billion euros. In fact, however, despite increasing government revenue from road transport, investment only reached an average level of 5.3 billion euros in the years between 2000 and 2016. Today, even more than the 7 to 8 billion euros estimated in 2016 would have to be budgeted for needs-based financing. The reason: According to the Federal Statistical Office, by 2019 the cost of road construction measures had already risen by more than 17%.

    Economic cost of congestion and diversions

    Because the expansion did not move fast enough for so long, congestion amounted to 1.42 million kilometers in 2019 – and that was just on the autobahn, costing drivers 521,000 hours. In 2020, these figures were temporarily halved due to the coronavirus.

    This is compounded by the time it takes when important bridges, due to their poor condition, are closed for months or even years to heavy vehicles, which then have to sometimes make very long detours. In addition, this unnecessarily increases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

    Maintenance backlog hinders transport safety

    This investment backlog also creates a safety problem: According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, measurements showed that some 17% of highway routes exceed the critical value in terms of quality. This means that the condition of the road surface gives cause for close observation, and, where necessary, appropriate measures to improve the poor condition should be planned. Traffic safety is also endangered by the fact that there are far too few parking spaces for trucks along the highways. Expansion has not kept pace with the growth in long-distance transportation. According to estimates by the Federal Highway Research Institute, there is currently a shortage of around 23,000 such parking spaces – making it difficult for truck drivers to adhere to their prescribed rest periods.

    Increase in investments since 2017

    Politicians have recognized the need for action and have been noticeably increasing investment in national roads since 2017. In 2021, planned investments will rise to 8.65 billion euros. However, medium-term financial planning foresees a decline to between 8.3 and 8.4 billion euros for the years 2022 to 2024.

    Large government revenue from road transport

    In truth, there has always been enough money available for a needs-based financing of federal trunk roads. In 2019 alone, the public sector collected around 59 billion euros from taxes and levies on motor transport (energy tax including sales tax, vehicle tax, truck toll). Yet only around 22 billion euros of this was invested in road infrastructure (including state, district, and municipal roads) – as in previous years, some 37%.

    Contact person

    Dr. Michael Niedenthal

    Head of Transport Policy Department

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