Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost New York motorists a total of $26 billion statewide annually – as much as $2,959 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 York, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research nonprofit.
The TRIP report, “New York Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout New York, nearly half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, ten percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient, and 5,127 people lost their lives on the state’s roads from 2014-2018. New York’ major urban roads are congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce. The TRIP report includes regional pavement and bridge conditions, congestion data, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy, Binghamton, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York-Newark-Jersey City, Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica urban areas and statewide.
Driving on deficient New York State roads costs the state’s drivers a total of $26 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 safety features likely were a contributing factor. 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 25 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in New York State are in poor condition and another 22 percent are in mediocre condition, costing the state’s motorists an additional $7.2 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Sixteen percent of New York’ major roads are in fair condition and the remaining 37 percent are in good condition.
“Infrastructure in our state is critical to the economy,” said New York State Assemblymember John T. McDonald III. “Investments in our public infrastructure create good jobs and make our roadways safer. This newest report from TRIP has highlighted the importance of the need for increased investment in our state’s aging roads and bridges. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on solutions to addressing these issues.”
Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New York State drivers $14.2 billion each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. In the most congested urban areas, drivers lose up to $1,947 and as many as 92 hours per year sitting in congestion. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in the state dropped by as much as 45 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to 10 percent below the previous year’s volume in September 2020.
“I want to thank TRIP for this valuable report. There is no question that we need greater investment in our transportation infrastructure,” said New York State Assemblymember William Magnarelli. “Infrastructure investment should be a top priority of both New York State and the new federal administration. Capital spending on roads and bridges creates jobs in construction and will support the economy as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. I look forward to supporting these efforts in the coming legislative session and State Budget negotiations.”
“Once again the facts contained in this report speak for themselves,” said Mark Eagan, president and CEO of the Capital Region Chamber. “As we look to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of the upmost importance that elected officials make increased funding for transportation infrastructure a top priority. Without it, our region’s economy will suffer and our recovery will be stalled.”
Statewide, ten percent of New York’ bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Fifty-four percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 36 percent are in good condition.
“As an advocate for traffic safety, AAA supports initiatives to provide safe roads and bridges for all motorists. The TRIP findings reinforce the need for a long-term transportation reauthorization bill in 2021 that would provide increased federal funding for New York and the nation’s infrastructure as a whole,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA Western and Central New York. “AAA urges Congress and the incoming administration to prioritize transportation investments to ensure safe, efficient and reliable mobility here in New York and across the country.”
Traffic crashes in New York claimed the lives 5,127 people between 2014 and 2018. New York’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.76 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2018 is lower than the national average of 1.13. Traffic crashes imposed a total of $13.8 billion in economic costs in New York in 2018, and traffic crashes in which a lack of adequate roadway safety features were likely a contributing factor imposed $4.6 billion in economic costs.
“With the deterioration of so many roads and bridges causing business and industry billions of dollars in increased costs per year, we appreciate the continued focus on this issue in the TRIP report,” said Johnny Evers, senior director of government affairs for the Business Council of New York State. “It is only through careful study that New York State and the nation can address this problem. We hope the thoroughness of this study will lead to the change necessary to fix this ongoing business concern.”
The efficiency and condition of New York’ transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $1.3 trillion in goods are shipped to and from New York, 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. The design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in New York supports approximately 319,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. Approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in New York 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.
“These conditions are only going to get worse, increasing the additional costs to motorists, if greater investment is not made available at the federal, state and local levels of government,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “Without adequate funding, New York’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”
NEW YORK KEY TRANSPORTATION FACTS
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF DEFICIENT ROADS
Driving on New York roads that are deteriorated, congested and that lack some desirable safety features costs New York drivers a total of $26 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 in which the lack of adequate safety features was a contributing factor. The chart below details the cost of deficient roads statewide and for the average driver in the state’s largest urban areas and statewide.
NEW YORK ROADS PROVIDE A ROUGH RIDE
Due to inadequate state and local funding, 47 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads and highways in New York are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on rough roads costs the average New York driver $588 annually in additional vehicle operating costs – a total of $7.2 billion statewide. The chart below details pavement conditions on major roads in the state’s largest urban areas and statewide.
NEW YORK BRIDGE CONDITIONS
Ten percent of New York’s bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition, the eleventh highest share in the nation. Bridges that are rated poor/structurally deficient have significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Fifty-four percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 36 percent are in good condition. The chart below details bridge conditions statewide and in the state’s largest urban areas.
NEW YORK VEHICLE TRAVEL AND CONGESTION INCREASING
In 2018, the state’s transportation system carried 123.5 billion annual vehicle miles of travel (VMT). Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New York drivers $14.2 billion each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. In the most congested urban areas, drivers lose up to $1,947 and as many as 92 hours per year sitting in congestion. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in New York dropped by as much as 45 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to 10 percent below the previous year’s volume in September 2020. The chart below shows the annual number of hours and gallons of fuel lost to congestion per driver and the average cost per driver of lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion in the state’s largest urban areas.
NEW YORK TRAFFIC SAFETY AND FATALITIES
A total of 5,127 people were killed in traffic crashes in New York from 2014-2018. In 2018, New York had 0.76 traffic fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled, lower than the national average of 1.13. The fatality rate on New York’s non-interstate rural roads is more than four-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads in the state (2.24 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs 0.49).
Traffic crashes imposed a total of $13.8 billion in economic costs in New York in 2018 and traffic crashes in which a lack of adequate roadway safety features were likely a contributing factor imposed $4.6 billion in economic costs. The chart below details the average number of people killed in traffic crashes in the state’s largest urban areas between 2014 and 2018, and the cost of traffic crashes per driver.
NEW YORK TRANSPORTATION FUNDING
The ability of revenue from New York’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 they will represent approximately 30 percent of the passenger vehicle fleet.
The current federal transportation legislation, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), was set to expire on September 30, 2020. Congress extended it by one year to September 30, 2021. The FAST Act is a major source of funding for road, highway and bridge repairs in New York. Throughout the initial five years of the FAST-Act – fiscal years 2016 to 2020 – the program provided $8.9 billion to New York for road repairs and improvements, an average of $1.8 billion per year. From 2014 to 2018, the federal government provided $1.28 for road improvements in New York for every $1.00 state motorists paid in federal highway user fees, including the federal state motor fuel tax.
From 2014 to 2018, federal funds provided for highway improvements were the equivalent of 37 percent of the amount of New York state capital outlays on road, highway and bridge projects, including construction, engineering and right-of-way acquisition.
TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The health and future growth of New York’s economy is riding on its transportation system. Each year, nearly $1.3 trillion in goods are shipped to and from sites in New York, mostly by truck. Increases in passenger and freight movement will place further burdens on the state’s already deteriorated and congested surface transportation system. The value of freight shipped to and from sites in New York, when adjusted for inflation, is expected to increase by 154 percent by 2045, and by 108 percent by 2045 for goods shipped by trucks.
A report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association found that the design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in New York supports approximately 319,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. These workers earn $9.8 billion annually. Approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in New York in key industries like tourism, manufacturing, retail sales and agriculture are completely dependent on the state’s transportation infrastructure network.
Sources of information for this report include 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), the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Cover page photo credit: Getty Images.