AASHTO Journal, 24 July 2015
A new report by the transportation research organization TRIP – formerly The Road Information Program – identifies the U.S. urban areas with roughest roads and says using them imposes added costs on drivers of up to $1,044 annually.
And, it warns, with roadway travel now returning to and even topping pre-recession levels, those road conditions are expected to decline further without additional funding for improvement at the local, state and federal levels.
Leaders of several major national infrastructure advocacy groups used the report to push Congress to approve a strong investment program.
TRIP issued the report July 23, as the Senate was considering a six-year highway and transit bill with three years of funding and a week after the House voted for a short extension to Dec. 18 to allow time for lawmakers to plan a long-term bill that would be fully paid for.
Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said in a statement with the TRIP announcement: “The long-term preservation and maintenance of our national transportation system depends on federal investment. We can do better than the uncertainty of short-term extensions. America needs Congress to fully fund a multi-year surface transportation bill.”
“The nation’s rough roads stress nerves and cost billions in unnecessary vehicle replacement, repair and fuel costs,” said Jill Ingrassia, managing director at the AAA motor club for government relations and traffic safety advocacy. “Full investment in our nation’s transportation system will reduce the financial burden on drivers and provide them with a smoother, safer and more efficient ride.”
Janet Kavinoky, executive director for transportation and infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and vice president of the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition, said: “The deteriorating condition of our nation’s urban roads threatens the health of the nation’s economy, reducing the efficiency of a region’s businesses and employers.” She added that funding at all levels “must be a top priority … and Congress must do its part by authorizing an adequately funded, long-term federal transportation bill.”
And Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director, said: “Congress could reduce the extra costs borne by motorists driving on rough roads by authorizing a long-term, adequately funded federal transportation program that improves road conditions on the nation’s major roads and highways.”
The TRIP report on pavement conditions and driver costs covers urban areas with populations of at least 250,000, and is titled “Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother.”
TRIP said using deteriorated roads “increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, and increasing needed maintenance, fuel consumption and tire wear.”
Residents of scores of large and mid-sized cities can find their rankings in the report, showing what percentage of their roads are in poor condition and what that means in extra average driver operating costs compared with using roads that are well-maintained.
“The average motorist in the U.S. is losing $516 annually – $109.3 billion nationally – in additional vehicle operating costs as a result of driving on roads in need of repair,” the report says.
For instance, the San Francisco-Oakland area of California tops the list of major urban centers with 74 percent of its roads ranking poor and $1,004 in annual operating costs for drivers. In New Orleans, ranked 25th in the large urban areas, 42 percent of roads are in poor condition and the annual average cost to drivers is $713.
In the medium-sized urban areas, Flint, Mich., has the highest proportion of rough roads at 54 percent, for an extra annual driver tab of $839.