TRIP Report: Nebraska Faces $1.1 Billion Transportation Funding Shortfall Over Five Years

Nebraska faces $1.1 billion transportation funding shortfall over five years; road and bridge conditions face increasing deterioration without additional funding

Deficient roads cost each Omaha driver more than $1,100 per year

A new report finds that Nebraska faces a $1.1 billion transportation-funding shortfall over the next five years. This is at a time when nearly a quarter of the state’s major roads are in need of repair, more than a quarter of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, congestion is increasing and the rural traffic fatality rate is more than four times higher than on all other roads in the state. The report, released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization, finds that roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s motorists more than $1 billion annually and the average Omaha area motorist pays $1,113 each year.

The report, “Future Mobility in Nebraska: Meeting the State’s Needs for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that the state’s lack of sufficient transportation funding will lead to deteriorated road and bridge conditions, increased urban congestion, a lack of desirable safety features and lost opportunities for economic growth. Data provided by the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) shows that under current funding conditions, by 2020, the number of state-maintained miles of roadway (not including Interstates) in very good condition will be cut in half, and the number of miles in poor or very poor condition will increase more than three and a half times. NDOR also projects that the lack of transportation funding will lead to a 43 percent increase in the number of structurally deficient state-maintained bridges between 2010 and 2020.

The TRIP report finds that seven percent of Nebraska’s major roads are rated in poor condition and an additional 16 percent are in mediocre condition. Nineteen percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient and seven percent are functionally obsolete. These bridges are inspected regularly and are safe for travel, but many are in need of rehabilitation.

In addition to deteriorating road and bridge conditions, the state’s roads are also becoming increasingly crowded, as commuting and commerce are constrained by growing traffic congestion on Nebraska’s major urban roads. In 2008, 30 percent of the state’s urban highways were congested during peak travel times. The TRIP report also finds that Nebraska’s rural, non-Interstate roads have a traffic fatality rate that is more than four times higher than that on all other roads in the state. Increased investment in the state’s transportation infrastructure could improve road and bridge conditions, ease congestion, enhance safety and support long-term economic growth.  The TRIP report contains a list of needed transportation projects throughout the state that would repair and replace deficient bridges and increase roadway capacity.  However, these projects won’t move forward without additional transportation funding.

“There are very limited funds available for needed capacity or safety improvements, and there are virtually no funds for transportation system expansion to help spur the economic growth that is the real key to any economic turnaround. Nebraska is essentially in a maintenance only program, and it is trending down with reduced funding levels and construction inflation,” said Matthew Tondl, senior vice president of HDR.

TRIP estimates that Nebraska’s roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s drivers approximately $1 billion annually in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays. TRIP calculates that in the Omaha metro area this cost is $1,113 per motorist each year. A breakdown of these costs can be found in the TRIP report.

The federal surface transportation program remains a critical source of funding for road and bridge repairs and transit improvements in Nebraska. The current program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), originally scheduled to expire on September 30, 2009, now expires on March 4, 2011 following six short-term extensions.  The level of funding and the provisions of a future federal surface transportation program will have a significant impact on future highway and bridge conditions and safety as well as the level of transit service in Nebraska.

“Unless Nebraska can find a way to close the transportation funding shortfall, many critically needed projects will remain stranded on the drawing board,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “It is critical that Nebraska adequately fund its transportation system and that Congress produces a timely and adequately funded federal surface transportation program.  Thousands of jobs and the state’s economy are riding on it.”

TRIP Report

FUTURE MOBILITY IN NEBRASKA:

Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility

January 2011

Executive Summary

Nebraska’s extensive system of roads, highways, bridges and public transit provides the state’s residents, visitors and businesses with a high level of mobility.  As the backbone that supports the Cornhusker State, Nebraska’s surface transportation system provides for travel to work and school, visits with family and friends, and trips to tourist and recreation attractions while simultaneously providing businesses with reliable access for customers, suppliers and employees.  Nebraska must improve its system of roads, highways, bridges and public transit to foster economic growth, keep business in the state, and ensure the safe, reliable mobility needed to improve quality of life in Nebraska.

As Nebraska looks to rebound from the current economic downturn, the state will need to enhance its surface transportation system by improving the physical condition of its transportation network and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient and reliable mobility for residents, visitors and businesses.  Making needed improvements to the state’s roads, highways, bridges and transit could provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by creating jobs and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access.

Approved in February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided approximately $235.6 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and

$23.3 million for public transit improvements in Nebraska.  This funding can serve as a down payment on needed road, highway, bridge and transit improvements, but it is not sufficient to allow the state to proceed with numerous projects needed to modernize its surface transportation system.  Meeting Nebraska’s need to modernize and maintain its system of roads, highways, bridges and transit will require a significant, long-term boost in transportation funding at the federal, state or local levels.

Over the next five years, Nebraska faces a transportation funding shortfall of more than $1.1 billion. Without substantial transportation funding at the local, state and federal level, the state will be unable to complete numerous projects, leading to deteriorated road and bridge conditions, increased urban congestion and lost opportunities for economic growth.

  • The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) projects that over the next five years, the state will face a transportation funding shortfall of more than $1.1 billion. This lack of sufficient state transportation funding will lead to deteriorated road and bridge conditions, increased urban congestion, a lack of desirable safety features and lost opportunities for economic growth.
  • Unless the current level of transportation funding in the state is increased, pavement conditions will deteriorate in the coming years. By 2020, NDOR projects that under current funding conditions the number of state maintained miles of roadway (not including Interstates) currently in very good condition will be nearly cut in half, and the number of miles in poor or very poor condition will increase more than three and a half times.
  • Because of a lack of sufficient transportation funding, NDOR projects that the number of structurally deficient state-maintained bridges is projected to increase 43 percent between 2010 and 2020.
  • TRIP estimates that Nebraska’s roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s drivers more than $1 billion annually in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays.
  • TRIP estimates that roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions, cost the average Omaha area motorist $1,113 annually.
  • To ensure that federal funding for highways and bridges in Nebraska and throughout the nation continues beyond the expiration of SAFETEA-LU, Congress needs to approve a new long-term federal surface transportation program by March 4, 2011.
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides approximately $235.6 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $23.3 million for public transit improvements in Nebraska.
  • ARRA funding can serve as a down payment on needed road, highway, bridge and transit improvements, but it is not sufficient to allow the state to proceed with numerous projects needed to modernize its surface transportation system.  Meeting Nebraska’s need to modernize and maintain its system of roads, highways, bridges and transit will require a significant, long-term boost in transportation funding at the federal, state or local levels.
  • Congress is currently deliberating over a long-range federal surface transportation program.  The current program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), originally scheduled to expire on September 30, 2009, now expires on March 4, 2011 following six short-term extensions.
  • The level of funding and the provisions of a future federal surface transportation program will have a significant impact on future highway and bridge conditions and safety as well as the level of transit service in Nebraska, which, in turn, will affect the state’s ability to improve its residents’ quality of life and enhance economic development opportunities.

Despite the current economic downturn, population increases and economic growth in Nebraska over the past two decades have resulted in increased demands on the state’s major roads and highways.

  • Nebraska’s population reached 1.8 million in 2009, an increase of 14 percent since 1990.  The state’s population is expected to grow to 2 million by 2025.
  • Vehicle travel in Nebraska increased 37 percent from 1990 to 2008 – from 14 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1990 to 19 billion VMT in 2008.
  • By 2025, vehicle travel in Nebraska is projected to increase by another 30 percent.
  • From 1990 to 2009, Nebraska’s gross domestic product, a measure of the state’s economic output, increased by 56 percent, when adjusted for inflation.

In 2008, 23percent of major roads in Nebraska were in poor or mediocre condition, providing motorists with a rough ride.

  • In 2008, seven percent of Nebraska’s major roads were rated in poor condition and 16 percent were rated in mediocre condition.  This includes Interstates, highways, connecting urban arterials and key urban streets that are maintained by state, county or municipal governments.
  • Roads rated in poor condition may show signs of deterioration, including rutting, cracks and potholes.  In some cases, poor roads can be resurfaced, but often are too deteriorated and must be reconstructed.  Roads rated in mediocre condition may show signs of significant wear and may also have some visible pavement distress.  Most pavements in mediocre condition can be repaired by resurfacing, but some may need more extensive reconstruction to return them to good condition.
  • Roads in need of repair cost each Nebraska motorist an average of $282 annually in extra vehicle operating costs – $380 million statewide.  Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
  • In the Omaha metropolitan area, where 42 percent of major roads are rated in poor condition and 32 percent are rated in mediocre condition, driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists $587 each year in extra vehicle operating costs.
  • The functional life of Nebraska’s roads is greatly affected by the state’s ability to perform timely maintenance and upgrades to ensure that structures last as long as possible.  It is critical that roads are fixed before they require major repairs because reconstructing roads costs approximately four times more than resurfacing them.
  • This report contains a list of needed roadway preservation projects in Nebraska that would require a significant increase in state and federal funding to be completed.

Approximately one quarter of all bridges in Nebraska (state, local & federally maintained) showed significant deterioration or did not meet current design standards in 2010.

  • Eighteen percent of Nebraska’s bridges were structurally deficient in 2010.  A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components.  Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
  • Six percent of Nebraska’s bridges were functionally obsolete in 2010.  Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
  • This report contains a list of needed bridge rehabilitation and replacement projects across the state that would require significant federal funding to be completed.

Nebraska’s rural traffic fatality rate is more than four times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.  Improving safety features on Nebraska’s roads and highways would likely result in a decrease in traffic fatalities in the state.  Roadway characteristics are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic accidents.

  • Between 2004 and 2008, 1,263 people were killed in traffic accidents in Nebraska, an average of 253 fatalities per year.
  • Nebraska’s traffic fatality rate was 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2008, slightly lower than the national average of 1.25 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
  • The traffic fatality rate in 2008 on Nebraska’s non-Interstate rural roads was 1.91 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, which is more than four times the traffic fatality rate of 0.45 on all other roads and highways in the state.
  • A disproportionate share of fatalities takes place on Nebraska’s non-Interstate rural roads. Approximately 76 percent of fatalities take place on rural roads, though they account for only 43 percent of vehicle travel in the state.
  • Several factors are associated with vehicle accidents that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway design.
  • TRIP estimates that roadway characteristics, such as lane widths, lighting, signage and the presence or absence of guardrails, paved shoulders, traffic lights, rumble strips, obstacle barriers, turn lanes, median barriers and pedestrian or bicycle facilities, are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic crashes.
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and accidents while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion.  Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.
  • The cost of serious traffic crashes in Nebraska in 2008, in which roadway design was likely a contributing factor, was approximately $427 million. In the Omaha area, where there were 25 traffic fatalities in 2008, traffic crashes in which roadway design was likely a contributing factor cost each driver approximately $113. The cost of serious crashes includes lost productivity, lost earnings, medical costs and emergency services.
  • The Federal Highway Administration has found that every $100 million spent on needed highway safety improvements will result in 145 fewer traffic fatalities over a 10-year period.

Traffic congestion levels are rising as a result of population and economic growth, leading to increasing travel delays in Nebraska’s urban areas.

  • In 2008, 30 percent of Nebraska’s urban Interstates and other highways or freeways were considered congested, carrying a level of traffic that is likely to result in significant delays during peak travel hours.
  • The average rush hour trip in the Omaha metro area takes approximately eight percent longer to complete than during non-rush hour. Unless the area’s transportation system is improved, travel delays will increase in the future.
  • The statewide cost of traffic congestion in lost time and wasted fuel is approximately $240 million annually. Lost time and wasted fuel caused by congestion costs the average Omaha motorist $413 per year.

The efficiency of Nebraska’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy.  Businesses are increasingly reliant on an efficient and reliable transportation system to move products and services.  Expenditures on highway repairs create a significant number of jobs.  Increases in the cost of highway construction materials have boosted the cost of road, highway and bridge repairs.

  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.
  • Annually, $76 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Nebraska and another $64 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Nebraska, mostly by trucks.   Seventy-five percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Nebraska are carried by trucks and another 13 percent are carried by courier services, which use trucks for part of their deliveries
  • A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.

Sources of information for this report include the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the U.S. Census, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Reason Foundation and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).  All data used in the report is the latest available. For the full report click here.

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