TRIP Report: NEW MEXICO MOTORISTS LOSE $3 BILLION PER YEAR ON ROADS THAT ARE ROUGH, CONGESTED & LACK SOME SAFETY FEATURES – UP TO $2,604 PER DRIVER. NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION IDENTIFIES $5.1 BILLION IN NEEDED PROJECTS

Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost New Mexico motorists a total of $3 billion statewide annually – as much as $2,604 per driver in some urban areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in New Mexico, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research nonprofit. 

The TRIP report, New Mexico Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout New Mexico, more than half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, five percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient, and New Mexico has the third highest rate nationally of traffic fatalities. New Mexico’s major urban roads are congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce. 

Driving on deficient roads in New Mexico costs the state’s drivers a total of $3 billion per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway features, while not the primary factor, likely were a contributing factor. The report includes regional pavement and bridge conditions, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for the Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe urban areas and statewide. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in the state’s largest urban areas, along with a statewide total, is below.

The TRIP report finds that 34 percent of New Mexico’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor condition and another 22 percent are in mediocre condition, costing the state’s drivers an additional $1.3 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Eleven percent of New Mexico’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in fair condition and the remaining 32 percent are in good condition. 

Statewide, five percent of New Mexico’s bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Fifty-eight percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 36 percent are in good condition.

Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New Mexico drivers a total of $845 million each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. Traffic congestion in the state’s largest urban area results in the average driver losing 45 hours annually in traffic delays and wasting 21 gallons of fuel, costing the average driver there $1,041 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in New Mexico dropped by as much as 41 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to 15 percent above November 2019 volumes by November 2021.

Traffic crashes in New Mexico claimed the lives of 1,894 people from 2015 to 2019. New Mexico’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.53 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2019 is the third highest in the U.S. and higher than the national average of 1.11. Traffic crashes imposed a total of $2.5 billion in economic costs in New Mexico in 2019 and traffic crashes in which a lack of adequate roadway safety features, while not the primary factor, were likely a contributing factor imposed $847 million in economic costs. 

The efficiency and condition of New Mexico’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $120 billion in goods are shipped to and from New Mexico, relying heavily on the state’s network of roads and bridges. 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. Approximately 349,000 full-time jobs in New Mexico in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are dependent on the quality, safety and reliability of the state’s transportation infrastructure network.

A lack of sufficient funding at the local, state and federal levels will make it difficult to adequately maintain and improve the state’s existing transportation system. The New Mexico Department of Transportation has identified nearly $5.1 billion in needed, but unfunded, transportation projects throughout the state. The list of the most needed projects is included in the TRIP report.

Improvements to New Mexico’s roads, highways and bridges are funded by local, state and federal governments.  The level of highway investment in New Mexico is likely to increase further as a result of the five-year federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law in November 2021, which will provide $2.7 billion in road, highway and bridge funding from 2022 to 2026, resulting in a 35 percent increase in federal funding in 2022.  

“Additional federal funding from the IIJA will help New Mexico move forward with needed improvements to its transportation network that will make the state’s roads and bridges smoother, safer and more efficient while boosting the economy and creating jobs,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “Without adequate funding, New Mexico’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”

New Mexico Transportation by the Numbers

Meeting the State’s Needs for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility

NEW MEXICO KEY TRANSPORTATION FACTS 

THE HIDDEN COSTS OF DEFICIENT ROADS

Driving on New Mexico roads that are deteriorated, congested and that lack some desirable safety features costs New Mexico drivers a total of $3 billion each year. TRIP has calculated the cost to the average motorist in the state’s largest urban areas in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on rough roads, the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion, and the financial cost of traffic crashes. The chart below shows the cost of deficient roads statewide and for the average driver in the state’s largest urban areas. 

NEW MEXICO ROADS PROVIDE A ROUGH RIDE

Due to inadequate state and local funding, 56 percent of major roads and highways in New Mexico are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on rough roads costs the average New Mexico driver $901 annually in additional vehicle operating costs – a total of $1.3 billion statewide.  The chart below details pavement conditions on major roads in the state’s largest urban areas and statewide.

NEW MEXICO BRIDGE CONDITIONS

Five percent of New Mexico’s bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition, meaning there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Fifty-eight percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 36 percent are in good condition. Most bridges are designed to last 50 years before major overhaul or replacement, although many newer bridges are being designed to last 75 years or longer. In New Mexico, 49 percent of the state’s bridges were built in 1969 or earlier. The chart below details bridge conditions statewide and in the state’s largest urban areas.

NEW MEXICO ROADS ARE INCREASINGLY CONGESTED

In 2019, the state’s transportation system carried 27.8 billion annual vehicle miles of travel (VMT), a 22 percent increase since 2000. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in New Mexico dropped by as much as 41 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to 15 percent above November 2019 volumes by November 2021. 

Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New Mexico drivers $845 million each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. The chart below shows the annual number of hours lost to congestion, the cost of lost time and wasted fuel, and gallons of fuel lost to congestion for the average driver in the state’s largest urban areas. 

NEW MEXICO TRAFFIC SAFETY AND FATALITIES

From 2015 to 2019, 1,894 people were killed in traffic crashes in New Mexico.   In 2019, New Mexico had 1.53 traffic fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled, the third highest rate in the nation and significantly higher than the national average of 1.11. 

Traffic crashes imposed a total of $2.5 billion in economic costs in New Mexico in 2019 and traffic crashes in which a lack of adequate roadway safety features, while not the primary factor, were likely a contributing factor imposed $847 million in economic costs.  The chart below shows the number of people killed in traffic crashes in the state’s largest urban areas between 2015 and 2019, and the cost of traffic cashes per driver. 

TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The health and future growth of New Mexico’s economy is riding on its transportation system. Each year, $120 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in New Mexico, mostly by trucks.  Increases in passenger and freight movement will place further burdens on the state’s already deteriorated and congested network of roads and bridges.  The value of freight shipped to and from sites in New Mexico, in inflation-adjusted dollars, is expected to increase 110 percent by 2045 and by 126 percent for goods shipped by trucks.

According to a report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in New Mexico supports approximately 26,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. These workers earn $802 million annually. Approximately 349,000 full-time jobs in New Mexico in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network.

NEEDED PROJECTS AND TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

Investment in New Mexico’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 state’s existing transportation system. 

The New Mexico Department of Transportation has identified nearly $5.1 billion in needed but unfunded transportation projects throughout the state, as detailed in the chart below.

Improvements to New Mexico’s roads, highways and bridges are funded by local, state and federal governments.  The level of highway investment is likely to increase as a result of the five-year federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law in November 2021, which will provide $2.7 billion in road, highway and bridge funding from 2022 to 2026 resulting in a 35 percent increase in federal funding in 2022.   

Highway and bridge spending multiplies through the economy by stimulating additional output.   A 2021 macroeconomic analysis by IHS Markit found that that every dollar spent on highway and bridge improvements results in $3.4 dollars in combined direct, indirect and induced output from industries throughout the economy, resulting in a multiplier for highway and bridge investment of 3.4.

The ability of revenue from New Mexico’s motor fuel tax – a critical source of state transportation funds – to keep pace with the state’s future transportation needs is likely to erode as a result of increasing vehicle fuel efficiency and the increasing use of electric vehicles. The average fuel efficiency of U.S. passenger vehicles increased from 20 miles per gallon in 2010 to 24.5 miles per gallon in 2020.  Average fuel efficiency is expected to increase another 31 percent by 2030, to 32 miles per gallon, and increase 51 percent by 2040, to 37 miles per gallon. The share of electric vehicles of total passenger vehicle sales in the U.S. is expected to increase to five percent by 2023 and to 60 percent by 2040, by which time electric vehicles will represent approximately 30 percent of the passenger vehicle fleet.

Sources of information for this report include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), 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), the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Cover photo credit: Kerry M. Halasz.

For the complete report visit tripnet.org