intractable recession: The US, in general, is a declining superpower and its starting to show. our skin-and-bones transportation budget, crumbling bridges, and pothole ridden highways are so common as to be a feature. A decade of intentional federal gridlock by republicans clammouring for austerity measures in the face of a housing market crisis and educational loan crisis didnt help. and a decade prior our zeal to fight the war without end amen depleated a lot of our reserves from the clinton adminstration that could have been used to shore up what 60 years ago was a mark of american achievement...namely our highway infrastructure.
Actually, the problem isn't so much recession as it is a lack of economic growth. Just being out of a recession isn't enough. We can't afford the roads we're building unless the economy (and the tax revenues) grow at a good rate.
It's a dirty little secret, but our transportation budgets aren't adding up. To oversimplify: Every time we extend infrastructure, we add two drains on budgets. The first is depreciation - basically a way of budgeting for the cost of replacement years down the road. The second is maintenance - budgeting to repair the infrastructure. It's easy to ignore depreciation and kick the can down the road. And it's easy to skimp on maintenance (especially if the results won't be too bad before the next election cycle). Which means we end up building infrastructure where the tax revenues can't adequately fund the ongoing costs of the infrastructure once we remove the other necessary ongoing costs of an expansion (city services such as police & fire, etc).
What's worse is our ongoing style of expansion is frequently fault intolerant. Say you put in a big box store such as Walmart. Big box stores, as a general rule, aren't the best producers of tax revenue per square foot. You're frequently better off with a dense commercial or residential development instead - a tall apartment building, or a bunch of small stores. So already, when you add a big box store, it's not the best bang for the buck. And those big box stores tend to require their own infrastructure - new intersections, sometimes new roads, etc - since they are frequently built on the edge of development. But what's worse is if the big box store goes under - it's hard to find another tenant due to the size of the structure.
If you want to read more about this, I'd recommend either the Strong Towns website, or the American Conservative. The latter may seem odd, since walkable, liveable communities is frequently seen as a liberal idea, but there's a strong fiscal argument for New Urbanism.