TRIP Report: Deficient Roads Cost Ohio Drivers $6.5 Billion Statewide Per Year; Congested, Deteriorated Roads Hamper Economic Growth And Stall Recovery

A new report released by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research organization, today in four Ohio cities finds that that roads are congested, deteriorated or lack some desirable safety features and cost the average area motorist in Columbus $835 each year; in Cleveland the average cost per motorist is $915 each year; in Cincinnati it’s $933; and in Toledo it’s$860, a total of $6.5 billion statewide. The report finds that 26 percent of Ohio’s major roads are in need of repair, 24 percent of its bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, 45 percent of the state’s urban highways are congested, and Ohio’s rural traffic fatality rate is nearly four and a half times that of all other roads in the state.

According to the TRIP report, “Future Mobility in Ohio: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” nine percent of Ohio’s major roads are rated in poor condition and an additional 17 percent are in mediocre condition. In the Columbus metro area, 22 percent of major roads are in either poor or mediocre condition; in Cleveland it’s 41%; in Cincinnati it’s 39%; and in Toledo it’s 32 percent. Ten percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient and 14 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 Ohio’s major urban highways. In 2008, 45 percent of the state’s urban highways were congested during peak travel times. And, although the state’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.92 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT) in 2009 was lower than the national average of 1.14 fatalities per 100 million VMT, the TRIP report finds that Ohio’s rural, non-Interstate roads have a traffic fatality rate that is nearly four and a half times higher than that on all other roads in the state (2.20 vs. 0.50 fatalities per 100 million VMT).

TRIP estimates that Ohio’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 $6.5 billion annually in the form of the financial cost of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) due to driving on deteriorated roads and time and fuel lost due to congestion-related delays.

The TRIP report also includes data and cost breakdowns for Ohio’s six largest metropolitan areas.

Without a substantial boost in transportation funding, Ohio will be unable to complete numerous projects to improve the condition and expand the capacity of roads, bridges and public transit systems, hampering the state’s ability to improve mobility and to enhance economic development opportunities. Increased investment in Ohio’s transportation infrastructure could improve road and bridge conditions, ease congestion, enhance safety and support long-term economic growth.

“The data in the new report underscores how businesses in Ohio need well-maintained transportation systems to be successful,” said Janet Kavinoky, vice president of Americans for Transportation Mobility, a coalition of national business and labor organizations. “Improving roads, maintaining bridges, and expanding transit options will save the state’s employers billions and help create thousands of new jobs.”

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. The federal surface transportation program, which expires on September 30, 2011, remains a critical source of funding for road and bridge repairs and transit improvements in Ohio.

“Ohio’s deficient transportation system is hitting the state’s drivers in the wallet at a time when many can ill afford it. It is much more cost effective to invest in building a sound transportation system than to pass along the cost of a deteriorated system to the state’s motorists,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “It is critical that Ohio 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.”

FUTURE MOBILITY IN OHIO:

Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility
April 2011

Executive Summary

Ohio’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 Buckeye State, Ohio’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.  Ohio 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 Ohio.

As Ohio looks to recover from the recent recession, 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. Ohio’s unemployment rate jumped from 5.6 percent in February 2008 to 10.6 percent in February 2010 before decreasing to 9.2 percent in February 2011. Making needed improvements to the state’s roads, highways, bridges and transit could provide a significant boost to the state’s economic recovery by creating jobs and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access.

The federal government is an essential source of funding for the ongoing modernization of Ohio’s roads, highways, bridges and transit. Approved in February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided approximately $935.7 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $179.8 million for public transit improvements in Ohio.  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 Ohio’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 and 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 September 30, 2011 following several 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 Ohio, which, in turn, will affect the state’s ability to improve its residents’ quality of life and enhance economic development opportunities.

Insufficient roads cost the state’s drivers a total of $6.5 billion every year in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) and congestion-related delays. Without a substantial increase in transportation funding at the local, state and federal levels, Ohio will see deteriorated road and bridge conditions, increased urban congestion and lost opportunities for economic growth.

  • A lack of available transportation funding in the future could lead to more deteriorated road and bridge conditions and increased congestion in the state’s major urban areas. TRIP estimates that Ohio’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 $6.5 billion annually in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) and congestion-related delays.
  • TRIP has calculated the annual cost per motorists of driving on roads that are deteriorated, congested and lack some desirable safety features in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. The following chart shows the cost breakdown for each of these areas and the statewide costs.

  • To ensure that federal funding for highways and bridges in Ohio and throughout the nation continues beyond the expiration of SAFETEA-LU, Congress needs to approve a new long-term federal surface transportation program by September 30, 2011.
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides approximately $935.7 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $179.8 million for public transit improvements in Ohio.
  • 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 Ohio’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 and local levels.

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

  • Ohio’s population reached 11.5 million in 2009, an increase of six percent since 1990.
  • Vehicle travel in Ohio increased 27 percent from 1990 to 2009 – from 87 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1990 to 111 billion VMT in 2009.
  • From 1990 to 2009, Ohio’s gross domestic product, a measure of the state’s economic output, increased by 26 percent, when adjusted for inflation.

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

  • In 2008, 45 percent of Ohio’s urban Interstates and other highways or freeways were considered congested, carrying a level of traffic that is likely to result in delays during peak travel hours.
  • Travel delays in Ohio’s largest urban areas are mounting. The chart below details the current travel time index for each urban area. Travel time index (TTI) measures the amount of additional time it takes to complete a rush hour trip. For example, a travel time index of 1.15 means that the average rush hour trip takes 15 percent longer to complete than during non-rush times.

In 2008, more than a quarter of major roads in Ohio were in poor or mediocre condition, providing motorists with a rough ride. This includes Interstates, highways, connecting urban arterials and key urban streets that are maintained by state, county or municipal governments.

  • In 2008, nine percent of Ohio’s major roads were rated in poor condition and 17 percent were rated in mediocre 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.  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 Ohio motorist $1.7 billion annually in extra vehicle operating costs.  Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
  • In addition to statewide pavement conditions, TRIP has calculated pavement conditions on major roads in the state’s largest urban areas. The chart below details the percentage of major roads in poor, mediocre, fair and good condition in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and statewide.

  • The functional life of Ohio’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.

Nearly a quarter of bridges in Ohio showed significant deterioration or did not meet current design standards in 2010.  This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length and are maintained by state, local and federal agencies.

  • Ten percent of Ohio’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.
  • Fourteen percent of Ohio’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.
  • Bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete are safe for travel and are monitored on a regular basis by the organizations responsible for maintaining them.

Ohio’s rural traffic fatality rate is nearly four and a half times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.  Improving safety features on Ohio’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 2005 and 2009, 6,025 people were killed in traffic accidents in Ohio, an average of 1,205 fatalities per year.
  • Ohio’s traffic fatality rate was 0.92 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2009, lower than the national average of 1.14 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
  • The traffic fatality rate in 2009 on Ohio’s non-Interstate rural roads was 2.20 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, which is nearly four and a half times higher than the traffic fatality rate of 0.50 on all other roads and highways 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 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.

The efficiency of Ohio’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.

  • Annually, $563 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Ohio and another $493 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Ohio, mostly by trucks.
  • Seventy-eight percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Ohio by value are carried by trucks and another 12 percent are carried by parcel, U.S. Postal Service or courier services, which use trucks for part of the 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.
  • 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.

Surface transportation projects that improve the efficiency, condition or safety of a highway or transit route provide significant economic benefits by reducing transportation delays and costs associated with a deficient transportation system.  Following are some of the benefits of making transportation improvements.

  • Improved business competitiveness due to reduced production and distribution costs as a result of increased travel speeds and fewer mobility barriers.
  • Improvements in household welfare resulting from better access to higher-paying jobs, a wider selection of competitively priced consumer goods, additional housing and healthcare options, and improved mobility for residents without access to private vehicles.
  • Gains in local, regional and state economies due to improved regional economic competitiveness, which stimulates population and job growth.
  • Increased leisure/tourism and business travel resulting from the enhanced condition and reliability of a region’s transportation system.
  • A reduction in economic losses from vehicle crashes, traffic congestion and vehicle maintenance costs associated with driving on deficient roads.
  • The creation of both short-term and long-term jobs.
  • Transportation projects that expand roadway or transit capacity produce significant economic benefits by reducing congestion and improving access, thus speeding the flow of people and goods while reducing fuel consumption.
  • Transportation projects that maintain and preserve existing transportation infrastructure provide significant economic benefits by improving travel speeds, capacity, load-carrying abilities and safety, and reducing operating costs for people and businesses.  Such projects also extend the service life of a road, bridge or transit vehicle or facility, which saves money by either postponing or eliminating the need for more expensive future repairs.
  • Site Selection magazine’s 2010 survey of corporate real estate executives found that transportation infrastructure was the third most important selection factor in making site location decisions, behind only work force skills and state and local taxes.

Two 2010 reports, one by the Treasury Department with the Council of Economic Advisers and the other by a bipartisan group of transportation experts, found that the U.S. is falling far behind internationally in providing a modern transportation system and will need to adopt a more ambitious and focused transportation program to maintain the nation’s standard of living.  The reports call for increased investment to relieve traffic congestion, improve freight and intermodal access, improve road and bridge conditions, improve traffic safety, and reduce emissions.

The reports found that now is an optimal time to invest in infrastructure because of reduced costs due to the economic downturn and that providing adequate resources to modernize the nation’s transportation system will require increased use of innovative funding tools including vehicle-miles-traveled fees, public-private partnerships and capital budgeting.

  • The report, “An Economic Analysis of Infrastructure Investment” (The Treasury report), was prepared by the U.S. Department of the Treasury with the Council of Economic Advisers.
  • The report, “Well Within Reach: America’s New Transportation Agenda” (The Miller report), was prepared by a group of the nation’s top transportation policy experts chaired by two former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation, Samuel Skinner and Norman Mineta.  The group was assembled by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia to develop solutions for the funding and planning challenges that confront the nation’s transportation system.
  • The Miller report found that the U.S. faces an annual funding shortfall to maintain conditions and traffic congestion levels on its transportation system from between $134 and $194 billion and from between $189 and $262 billion to improve conditions and reduce traffic congestion.
  • The Treasury report found that U.S. infrastructure spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen by 50 percent and now accounts for two percent of the nation’s GDP.  In contrast, China spends about nine percent of its GDP on infrastructure and Europe about five percent.
  • The Treasury report found that now is an optimal time to invest in transportation infrastructure because well-designed projects can provide significant, long-term economic benefits, significant needs exist and construction and other costs associated with infrastructure projects are especially low because of high unemployment and a high level of underutilized resources.

Key recommendations of the two reports include:

Program format:

  • Adopt an integrated approach to transportation planning that includes freight and goods movement and stresses intermodal connectivity (Miller).
  • Prioritize projects that provide the greatest returns in terms of future U.S. competitiveness, economic growth and employment (Miller).
  • Increase emphasis on urban congestion relief, including adding additional roadway and transit capacity, making the existing system work more efficiently and adopting regional policies that may reduce some travel demand (Miller).
  • Improve the delivery of transportation projects by reforming the project planning, permitting and review process to speed actual implementation (Miller).

Funding:

  • Transition from utilizing a user fee on motor fuel consumption as the primary source of transportation funding to a user fee based on miles driven (Miller).
  • Establish a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) that would create conditions for greater private sector co-investment in infrastructure.  An NIB would also perform rigorous analysis to identify projects with the greatest possible societal and economic benefits (Treasury).
  • Save the public money by investing adequately in transportation to reduce delays, vehicle maintenance costs, traffic crashes and vehicle emissions (Miller).
  • Adopt a federal capital budget that recognizes that transportation expenditures are an investment and that takes into account future returns on those investments (Miller).

Sources of information for this report include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the U.S. Census, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Treasury Department,  the Council of Economic Advisers ,  the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and U.S. transportation policy experts.  All data used in the report is the latest available.

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