The Government has proposed the convenience of reaching an agreement in Congress to address the maintenance costs of the motorway network. An invoice that will increase significantly in 2019 and 2021 when the concessions of about 1,000 kilometers of highways end, whose conservation costs will pass to the State.
The maintenance of roads is a serious problem due to its consequences on road safety. Spain has the third largest high capacity motorway network in the world. As noted by a study by Fedea prepared by E. Engel, R. Fischer and A. Galetovic, "everything indicates that there was overinvestment on roads until 2009, both on toll roads and motorways."
It is evident that during the years of construction fever the maintenance costs of the roads were not taken into account. The resources destined to its conservation have fallen to 884 million euros in 2017, 23% less than a decade ago. This cut has occurred at the same time that the network of highways has grown by 18%.
The Government assures that it will only take measures when an agreement is reached in Congress. In any case it would be necessary for the Executive to present his own proposal. It is an issue with strong economic implications but also social and environmental. We must take into account the interests of all those affected, especially users and transporters, mostly self-employed workers.
The lack of resources to finance the conservation of the roads has reopened the debate on the different options: introduction of soft tolls on the highways, extension of existing highways so as not to recharge the costs of the State or free use of all these infrastructures.
We already know that there are no free roads. Its financing is paid by all citizens even though they do not use them through taxes or users through tolls. But everything is more complex. Also the toll motorways have been financed in part by the State.
The motorways in Spain were promoted in 1961 by the World Bank, which advised the construction of the first 730 kilometers from the French border to Murcia. For its realization it was necessary the external financing and that the State guarantee an insurance of change. The credits were taken at 60 pesetas the dollar and ended up paying 200 pesetas. The State paid the difference, which between 1969 and 2008 amounted to 4,773 million euros, for the exchange insurance, according to official information. In 1984, for example, the State subsidized the motorways with 67,000 million pesetas, almost double the revenues from tolls, (34,666 million).
The highways benefited the territories that had them because there grew important business poles. Now that the concessions are over, it would be convenient for the financing model of these infrastructures to be transparent and equal for the whole country.