Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility
Seven years after the nation suffered a significant economic downturn, Connecticut’s economy continues to rebound. The rate of economic growth in Connecticut, which will be greatly impacted by the reliability and condition of the state’s transportation system, continues to have a significant impact on quality of life in the Constitution State.
An efficient, safe and well-maintained transportation system provides economic and social benefits by affording individuals access to employment, housing, healthcare, education, goods and services, recreation, entertainment, family, and social activities. It also provides businesses with access to suppliers, markets and employees, all critical to a business’ level of productivity and ability to expand. Conversely, reduced accessibility and mobility – as a result of traffic congestion, a lack of adequate capacity, or deteriorated roads, highways, bridges and transit facilities – diminishes a region’s quality of life by reducing economic productivity and limiting opportunities for economic, health or social transactions and activities.
As the insurance capital of the nation and with an economy based largely on finance, engineering, manufacturing, information technology, electronics, agriculture and mining, the quality of Connecticut’s transportation system will play a vital role in the state’s level of economic growth and in the quality of life in Connecticut.
In this report, TRIP looks at the top transportation issues faced in Connecticut as the state addresses its need to modernize and maintain its system of roads, highways, bridges and transit systems.
Signed into law in July 2012, MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act), has improved several procedures that in the past had delayed projects. MAP-21 does not address long-term funding challenges facing the federal surface transportation program. The current federal transportation legislation was initially set to expire on September 30, 2014. However, following numerous short-term extensions passed by Congress, the bill is now set to expire on December 4, 2015. Congress will need to pass new legislation prior to the expiration to ensure prompt federal reimbursements to states for road, highway, bridge and transit repairs and improvements.
The level of funding and the provisions of the federal surface transportation program have a significant impact on highway and bridge conditions, roadway safety, transit service, quality of life and economic development opportunities in Connecticut.
COST TO CONNECTICUT MOTORISTS OF DEFICIENT ROADS
An inadequate transportation system costs Connecticut motorists a total of $5.1 billion every year in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC), congestion-related delays and traffic crashes.
- TRIP estimates that Connecticut roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s residents approximately $5.1 billion annually in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear), the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion, and the financial cost of traffic crashes.
- TRIP has calculated the average cost to drivers in the state’s largest urban areas as a result of driving on roads that are deteriorated, congested and lack some desirable safety features. The chart below details the costs to drivers in the Bridgeport/Stamford, Hartford and New Haven urban areas.
POPULATION AND ECONOMIC GROWTH IN CONNECTICUT
The rate of population and economic growth in Connecticut have resulted in increased demands on the state’s major roads and highways, leading to increased wear and tear on the transportation system.
- Connecticut’s population reached approximately 3.6 million residents in 2014, a nine percent increase since 1990.
- Connecticut had 2.5 million licensed drivers in 2013.
- Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Connecticut increased by 18 percent from 1990 to 2013 –from 26.3 billion VMT in 1990 to 30.9 billion VMT in 2013.
- By 2030, vehicle travel in Connecticut is projected to increase by another 15 percent.
- From 1990 to 2013, Connecticut’s gross domestic product, a measure of the state’s economic output, increased by 41 percent, when adjusted for inflation. U.S. GDP increased 65 percent during this time.
CONNECTICUT ROAD CONDITIONS
A lack of adequate state and local funding has resulted in one-third of major urban roads and highways in Connecticut and one-quarter of major rural roads and highways having pavement surfaces in poor condition, providing a rough ride and costing motorist in the form of additional vehicle operating costs.
- Thirty-three percent of Connecticut’s major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while an additional 46 percent of the state’s major state and locally maintained urban roads are rated in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 21 percent are rated in good condition.
- Twenty-five percent of Connecticut’s major locally and state-maintained rural roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while an additional 48 percent of the state’s major state and locally maintained rural roads are rated in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 27 percent are rated in good condition.
- 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.
- Driving on rough roads costs Connecticut motorists a total of $1.6 billion annually in extra vehicle operating costs. Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
- The chart below details pavement conditions on major urban roads in the Bridgeport/Stamford, Hartford and New Haven urban areas:
CONNECTICUT BRIDGE CONDITIONS
More than one-third of locally and state-maintained bridges in Connecticut show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment. This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length.
- Nine percent of Connecticut’s bridges are structurally deficient. 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 and emergency services vehicles.
- Twenty-six percent of Connecticut’s bridges are functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
- The chart below details bridge conditions in the Bridgeport/Stamford, Hartford and New Haven urban areas:
HIGHWAY SAFETY AND FATALITY RATES IN CONNECTICUT
Improving safety features on Connecticut’s roads and highways would likely result in a decrease in the state’s traffic fatalities and serious crashes. It is estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic crashes.
- Between 2009 and 2013 a total of 1,274 people were killed in traffic crashes in Connecticut, an average of 255 fatalities per year.
- Connecticut’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.89 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013 is lower than the national average of 1.09.
- The chart below details the average number of fatalities from 2011 to 2013 in Bridgeport/Stamford, Hartford and New Haven, as well as the average cost per driver as a result of traffic crashes.
- Roadway features that impact safety include the number of lanes, lane widths, lighting, lane markings, rumble strips, shoulders, guard rails, other shielding devices, median barriers and intersection design. The cost of serious crashes includes lost productivity, lost earnings, medical costs and emergency services.
- Several factors are associated with vehicle crashes that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features. TRIP estimates that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.
- Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion. Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; improved lighting; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.
- Investments in rural traffic safety have been found to result in significant reductions in serious traffic crashes. A 2012 report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) found that improvements completed recently by the Texas Department of Transportation that widened lanes, improved shoulders and made other safety improvements on 1,159 miles of rural state roadways resulted in 133 fewer fatalities on these roads in the first three years after the improvements were completed (as compared to the three years prior). TTI estimates that the improvements on these roads are likely to save 880 lives over the next 20 years.
CONNECTICUT TRAFFIC CONGESTION
Increasing levels of traffic congestion cause significant delays in Connecticut, particularly in its larger urban areas, choking commuting and commerce. Traffic congestion robs commuters of time and money and imposes increased costs on businesses, shippers and manufacturers, which are often passed along to the consumer.
- Based on Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) estimates, the value of lost time and wasted fuel in Connecticut is approximately $2.3 billion per year.
- According to TTI, the average driver in the Bridgeport/Stamford urban area loses $1,174 each year in the cost of lost time and wasted fuel as a result of traffic congestion. The average Bridgeport/Stamford commuter wastes 49 hours each year stuck in traffic.
- According to TTI, the average driver in the Hartford urban area loses $1,038 each year in the cost of lost time and wasted fuel as a result of traffic congestion. The average Hartford commuter wastes 45 hours each year stuck in traffic.
- TTI estimates that the average driver in the New Haven area loses $932 annually in the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion. The average New Haven commuter wastes 40 hours each year stuck in traffic.
- Increasing levels of congestion add significant costs to consumers, transportation companies, manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and can reduce the attractiveness of a location to a company when considering expansion or where to locate a new facility. Congestion costs can also increase overall operating costs for trucking and shipping companies, leading to revenue losses, lower pay for drivers and employees, and higher consumer costs.
- Forty-two percent of businesses surveyed by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association believe that the state’s road congestion restricts or limits the territory of their market.
- Fifteen percent of businesses surveyed by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association have considered relocation because of regional transportation concerns.
CONNECTICUT’S TRANSIT SYSTEM
Connecticut’s heavily traveled and aging transit system, which plays a vital role in providing mobility in the state, has significant preservation needs to replace aging vehicles and to repair rail lines and bridges.
- Connecticut’s transit network includes 20 urban and rural systems, including the CTfastrack Bus Rapid Transit line in Hartford and the New Haven Line, the nation’s busiest commuter rail corridor.
- Connecticut’s transit system provides 42 million bus passenger trips per year on 1,100 buses and paratransit vehicles, and 41 million rail passenger trips per year on 500 rail cars and coaches traveling on 226 route miles.
- The preservation needs for Connecticut’s bus transit system total $2 billion, while the preservation needs for the state’s rail transit system is $14.5 billion.
- The average age of state-maintained buses in Connecticut is seven years, while the average age of buses maintained by local agencies is nine years. The average service life of a bus is 12 years.
- Twenty-two percent of rail bridges that carry commuter rail in Connecticut are in poor condition.
TRANSPORTATION FUNDING IN CONNECTICUT
Investment in Connecticut’s roads, highways and bridges is funded by local, state and federal governments. A lack of sufficient funding at all levels will make it difficult to adequately maintain and improve the existing transportation system.
- From 2009 to 2013, the federal government provided $1.75 for road improvements in Connecticut for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fuel fees.
- Following numerous short-term extensions passed by Congress, the current federal surface transportation legislation is set to expire on December 4, 2015. Congress will need to pass new legislation prior to the extension expiration to ensure prompt federal reimbursements to states for road, highway, bridge and transit repairs and improvements. If Congress decides to provide additional revenues into the federal Highway Trust Fund in tandem with authorizing a new federal surface transportation program, a number of technically feasible revenue options have been identified by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
- A significant boost in investment on the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and public transit systems is needed to improve their condition and to meet the nation’s transportation needs, concluded a new report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
- The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges needs to increase from $88 billion to $120 billion and from $17 billion to $43 billion in the nation’s public transit systems, to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs.
TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC GROWTH IN CONNECTICUT
The efficiency of Connecticut’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Businesses rely on an efficient and dependable transportation system to move products and services. A key component in business efficiency and success is the level and ease of access to customers, markets, materials and workers.
- Annually, $143 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Connecticut and another $119 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Connecticut, mostly by truck.
- Seventy-three percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Connecticut are carried by trucks and another 18 percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.
- Businesses have responded to improved communications and greater competition by moving from a push-style distribution system, which relies on low-cost movement of bulk commodities and large-scale warehousing, to a pull-style distribution system, which relies on smaller, more strategic and time-sensitive movement of goods.
- Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to re-locate or expand. Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system.
- Highway accessibility was ranked the number two site selection factor behind only the availability of skilled labor in a 2013 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.
- 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.
Sources of information for this report include the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U.S. Census Bureau, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).