A lack of sufficient transportation funding will make it difficult to adequately maintain and improve New Mexico’s existing transportation system. Increased investment in transportation improvements 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 finds 34 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in New Mexico are in poor condition and another 22 percent are in mediocre condition, costing the state’s drivers a total of $1.3 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
New Mexico roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested, or lack some desirable safety features cost the state’s motorists a total of $3 billion annually – as much as $2,888 per driver in some areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.
“It is critical that our state invest sufficiently in our transportation infrastructure to ensure that we keep our citizens safe and our economy growing,” said New Mexico State Representative Dayan Hochman- Vigil, chair of the New Mexico House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee.
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.
Statewide, New Mexico drivers lose $900 million annually as a result of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion. Traffic congestion in the Albuquerque urban area results in the average driver losing 46 hours annually in traffic delays and wasting 20 gallons of fuel, costing the average Albuquerque driver $1,224 annually in lost time and wasted fuel.
“Our roads in rural and Tribal areas are so very critical to improve the economy of our state,” said New Mexico State Representative Benny Shendo, Jr., chair of the New Mexico State Senate Tax, Businesses and Transportation Committee. “Safe roads for our school busses are essential so that our children and families can be safe.”
Improvement and reconstruction projects statewide have been identified by the New Mexico Department of Transportation. While a total of $5.75 billion is needed for these projects, they remain unfunded. A list of unfunded projects statewide is included in the report.
“The TRIP report is an invaluable tool to help guide our progress on improving infrastructure and quality of life for the citizens of New Mexico,” said Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull. “Rio Rancho has been focused on improving roads and infrastructure for its citizens, having partnered with the state, surrounding communities and local agencies to meet the goals of our citizens as it pertains to improving roads.”
The efficiency and condition of New Mexico’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $125 billion in goods are shipped to and from New Mexico, relying heavily on the state’s 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 59 percent by 2045.
“The best taxpayer money we can spend is on infrastructure and maintaining our roads in New Mexico,” said Ernie C’DeBaca, president and CEO of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. “This promotes economic development opportunities, commerce and trade while connecting communities and creating well-paying jobs.”
The level of highway investment is set 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 $3.2 billion in road, highway and bridge funding from 2022 to 2026, resulting in a 35 percent increase in federal funding in 2022.
“Without adequate funding, New Mexico’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “While 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, the state will also need to provide an adequate and sustainable investment in its transportation network.”
NEW MEXICO KEY TRANSPORTATION FACTS
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.
PROJECTS NEEDED TO ADDRESS SAFETY, RELIABILITY AND PRESERVATION
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 $5.75 billion in needed but unfunded transportation projects throughout the state to address safety, reliability and preservation challenges.
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-nine 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, 47 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). By 2021, vehicle miles of travel in New Mexico had rebounded to two percent below 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.
Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New Mexico drivers $900 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 2017 to 2021, 2,071 people were killed in traffic crashes in New Mexico. In 2021, New Mexico had 1.75 traffic fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled, the sixth highest rate in the nation and significantly higher than the national average of 1.35.
The number of fatalities in New Mexico increased 13 percent from 2019 to 2021, from 424 to 479, and the state’s fatality rate per 100 million VMT increased from 1.53 to 1.75 during that time. This increase in the number of fatalities and the rate of fatalities per 100 million VMT happened while vehicle travel in the state decreased by two percent overall from 2019 to 2021.
From 2016 to 2020, 21 percent of those killed in crashes involving motorized vehicles were pedestrians or bicyclists, a total of 394 pedestrian fatalities and 34 bicycle fatalities over the five-year period. The chart below indicates the number of pedestrian, bike and total traffic fatalities in New Mexico from 2016 to 2020 and the overall share of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities.
Traffic crashes imposed a total of $2.5 billion in economic costs in New Mexico in 2021 and traffic crashes in which a lack of adequate roadway safety features, while not the primary factor, were likely a contributing factor, imposed $842 million in economic costs. The chart below shows the number of people killed in traffic crashes in the state’s largest urban areas between 2016 and 2020, and the cost of traffic cashes per driver.
In early 2022 the U.S. Department of Transportation adopted a comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy, a roadmap for addressing the nation’s roadway safety crisis based on a Safe Systemapproach. The Safe System approach, which is also being adopted by state and local transportation agencies has five objectives: Safer People, Safer Roads, Safer Vehicles, Safer Speeds, and improved Post-Crash Care.
NEW MEXICO TRANSPORTATION FUNDING
Improvements to New Mexico’s roads, highways and bridges are funded by local, state and federal governments. The level of highway investment is set 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 $3.2 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, the increasing use of electric vehicles and inflation in highway construction costs.
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.
During the 18 months from the start of the first quarter in 2021 (January) to the end of the second quarter in 2022 (June) the Federal Highway Administration’s national highway construction cost index, which measures labor and materials cost increased by 37 percent.
TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The health and future growth of New Mexico’s economy is riding on its transportation system. Each year, $125 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 59 percent by 2045.
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.
Sources of information for this report include AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), The Transportation Research Board (TRB), the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Cover photo credit: James Feliciano.
For the complete report visit TRIPNET.ORG