Greater Investment in West Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Could Save Drivers Millions Each Year, Report Says

AASHTO Journal, 10 January 2014

The average West Virginia motorist doles out an extra $333 each year in extra vehicle operation costs due to the deteriorating transportation infrastructure on the state’s roadways, according to a report released Thursday by the transportation nonprofit TRIP. That number, a total of $400 million statewide, comes from accelerated vehicle depreciation, increased fuel consumption and tire wear, and extra repair costs from driving on rough roads or sitting in congestion.

The report, “West Virginia by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” discusses the costs to drivers and the state if the transportation infrastructure funding gaps are not addressed. According to TRIP, roughly 35 percent of the state’s bridges are in need of repair, improvement, or replacement (13 percent are structurally deficient while the other 22 percent are functionally obsolete). In addition, 36 percent of the state’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. The report was released in Charleston, W.V., where 42 percent of the roads are in poor or mediocre condition. This transportation infrastructure deterioration can also lead to safety concerns. TRIP’s report shows that West Virginia’s overall traffic fatality rate was recorded in 2011 as 1.78 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel—the second highest fatality rate in the nation.

As the state’s transportation infrastructure gets older, the wear and tear it experiences could accelerate due to the increase in use. TRIP says that the number of vehicle miles traveled in West Virginia have increased 23 percent from 1990 to 2011 and are expected to bump up another 20 percent by 2030. Investment is necessary, TRIP says, to support the state’s economy.

“Highways are vitally important to continued economic development in West Virginia, particularly to the state’s tourism, chemical, biotechnology, mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. As the economy expands, creating more jobs and increasing consumer confidence, the demand for consumer and business products grows,” according to TRIP. “As West Virginia looks to build and enhance a thriving, growing, and dynamic state, it will be critical that it is able to provide a 21st century network of roads, highways and bridges that can accommodate the mobility demands of a modern society.”

West Virginia Department of Transportation officials agree that transportation infrastructure investment is of vital importance.

“This report reiterates what we have long known—that our challenges are many and grow in correlation with the need for increased investment,” said WVDOT Secretary Paul Mattox.

The full 20-page TRIP report is available here.

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