A bumper crop of potholes is emerging on the nation’s roads as a result of a winter that, in many regions, has been the harshest in 30 years. Across the nation, more than a quarter of major urban roads are already in poor condition, and in some cities, as many as two-thirds of major roads are in poor condition. Those conditions were already projected to worsen due to a lack of transportation funding at the local, state and federal levels. But states and cities could experience even further deterioration as a result of the harsh weather conditions that have caused approximately three-quarters of states and many cities to exceed their snow removal budgets, forcing them to reallocate monies that would otherwise be available for road repairs.
Pavement failure is caused by a combination of traffic, moisture and climate. Moisture often works its way into road surfaces and the materials that form the road’s base, damaging their foundation. Extreme freeze-thaw cycles exacerbate the rate of pavement deterioration and can cause increased rutting and cracking.
Rough roads are more than just a nuisance for motorists. Driving on deteriorated roads costs the average urban driver $377 annually – a total of $80 billion nationwide. In areas with the roughest roads, drivers lose as much as $800 each year. These costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, increased maintenance, additional fuel consumption and tire wear. This is according to a report released by TRIP in October 2013 titled “Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother”.
The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding for states. The impact of inadequate federal surface transportation revenues could be felt as early as summer of 2014, when the balance in the Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to drop below $1 billion, which will trigger delays in the federal reimbursement to states for road, highway and bridge projects. Because of this funding delay and uncertainty, states will likely delay or postpone numerous projects. And, if a lack of adequate revenue into the Federal Highway Trust Fund is not addressed by Congress, funding for highway and transit improvements throughout the nation could be cut by $44 billion for the federal fiscal year 2015, beginning October 1, 2014.
“America’s already deteriorated road conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the local, state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Unless Congress acts this year to adequately fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund, all states are going to see their federal funding decrease dramatically starting this summer. This will result in fewer road repair projects, loss of jobs, higher vehicle operating costs for drivers, and a burden on state economies.”