2020 Census Will Help Determine Where Funds Go For Roads And Bridges

Next time you’re on your morning commute, merging on to a freeway or crossing a bridge, think of the decennial census.
Your responses to the 2020 Census, which includes every person living in the United States, may help decide when and where roads and bridges will be built in your community.
So far, Dillon County has had a poor response to the census ranking 44th in response in South Carolina’s 46 counties. Only 38.5 percent of Dillon County’s population has responded.
Billions of dollars in federal funds (more than $675 billion) are spent annually on critical transportation services in communities across the country, including maintenance and construction of roads and bridges. The decennial census count will inform spending decisions for the next decade.
Among the federal programs tied to census statistics are the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Highway Planning and Construction program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grants.
The impact of just these two programs is staggering.
In 2015 alone, the DOT distributed more than $38 billion through the Highway Planning and Construction program, the fourth largest amount of federal assistance informed by census statistics that year.
The annual HUD grants also provide billions in discretionary funding that local governments can choose to use to improve their infrastructure.
Both programs support construction and maintenance of the country’s 4.1 million miles of public roads, which the American Society of Civil Engineers has said are in such poor shape that they earned a “D” in its 2017 nationwide Infrastructure Report Card.
Funding from those federal programs—as well as state tax revenues allocated locally using census statistics—are critical in states such as Utah, which reports spending more than $350 million in federal highway funds in 2017.
“Since the 2010 Census, Utah has been the fastest-growing state in the nation,” said Evan Curtis, co-chair of the Utah Statewide Complete Count Committee, which is working to educate Utahns about the importance of responding to the census. “Along with the population growth comes a lot of development and change, and that of course increases pressure on our transportation systems, both on our roads and transit systems.”
That’s why, he said, “it’s especially critical that we have an understanding of how our population has changed and make sure that the funding is keeping up with those growing populations.”