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Here's how you're already paying for rotten roads and bridges

Jonathan Alcorn | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump's proposal to spend upward of a trillion dollars to overhaul crumbling U.S. infrastructure will be costly for the government, forcing tax hikes, spending cuts or more borrowing to pay for it.

But as peak-pothole season arrives, American motorists dodging an epidemic of roadway craters are already shelling out some $3 billion a year in repair costs for blown tires, broken shock absorbers and busted axles.

Even before the arrival of spring, potholes are already sprouting across the country. The money needed to fill them, though, is harder to find. Despite a relatively mild winter in much of the country, this year's seasonal thaw is inflicting another cycle of blown tires, busted axles and other repairs related to bad roads.

State by state, the average annual repair bill ranges from $60 (in Georgia) to $600 (New Jersey), according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The cost of fixing the nation's roadways, on the other hand, can be measured in the multiple billions. The Federal Highway Administration estimates it will cost at least $170 billion a year to make a dent in the backlog of bridge and highway overhaul projects.

The effort to fund those repairs last inched forward in late 2015 when Congress broke years of gridlock and passed a five-year, $305 billion bill to bail out the Highway Trust Fund, which had been running on financial fumes. But the measure was loaded with accounting tricks and earmarks and failed to address the longer-term deficit in funding America's bridges and highways

Much of the shortfall stems from the two-decade failure to adjust gasoline and diesel fuel for inflation. As a result, the main funding sources for road construction and upkeep have lost much of their spending power. Some states have moved to raise more money on their own.

Meanwhile, America's infrastructure continues to fall apart. And the repair bill is rising.

That's the conclusion of the latest "report card" on American roads, bridges, airports, power grids and other critical infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Over the next decade, it would cost more than $3.3 trillion to keep up with repairs and replacements, but based on current funding levels, the nation will come up more than $1.4 trillion short, the group says. When projected to 2040, the shortfall is expected to top $5 trillion, unless new funds are allocated.

Without that investment, the group said in its latest report, Americans can look forward to more highway traffic jams, airport bottlenecks and potential power outages. The deterioration of U.S. ports, roads, trains, water and electric facilities will also take an economic toll, the engineers said, cutting payroll growth by some 2.5 million jobs and some $4 trillion of gross domestic product in lost sales and higher costs.

The federal government undertook a surge of spending to help pull the economy out of the Great Recession with an $800 billion stimulus package of "shovel-ready" projects that had been deferred for lack of funding. But the pace of investment slowed sharply after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expired two years later.

Aside from heading off the economic impact of crumbling infrastructure, public investment in new roads and other public projects has helped support creation of relatively well-paying jobs, according to an analysis by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

More than 14 million Americans — about 1 in 10 workers — build, operate or maintain the roads, bridges, airports, railways and other infrastructure, the 2014 study found. The workforce spans 95 occupations and 42 industries. Those workers are paid better than average, according to the Brookings report.

Workers in lower-paid infrastructure occupations earn 30 percent more than in other sectors. And although some 12 percent hold a bachelor's degree or higher, workers generally need less education to qualify for these jobs, according to the report.