TRIP Report: Deficient Roadways Cost Each Texas Driver As Much As $2,000 Per Year, A Total Of $22.6 Billion Statewide

Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Texas motorists a total of $22.6 billion statewide – nearly $2,000 per driver in some areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.  An increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal level could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety and support long-term economic growth in Texas, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, “Future Mobility in Texas: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Texas, 11 percent of state-maintained roads and highways provide motorists with a rough ride. Under current funding levels, the share of state-maintained roads and highways in good or better condition will decrease from 86 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2025. A total of 17 percent of Texas bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with travel delays in some areas expected to double by 2030. And Texas’ rural traffic fatality rate is nearly three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.

Deficient roads costs each Texas driver as much as $1,969 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 cost of traffic crashes. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in Texas’ largest urban areas: Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. A breakdown of the costs in each city is below:

According to the TRIP report, three percent of Texas bridges are structurally deficient, meaning there is significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports, or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or are closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency service vehicles. An additional 14 percent of bridges are functionally obsolete. These bridges no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment with the approaching road. Bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete are safe for travel and are monitored regularly by the organizations responsible for maintaining them.

The TRIP report finds that 35 percent of major roads in Austin are in poor or mediocre condition. Traffic congestion in the Austin area is worsening, with the average rush-hour trip taking 29 percent longer to complete than during non-rush hour. The level of congestion-related delays on area roads is expected to nearly double by 2030 unless additional capacity is added. Traffic crashes in the Austin area claimed the lives of 59 people in 2008, giving the area a fatality rate of 7.79 fatalities per 100,000 population.

“It is critical that the state adequately fund its transportation system so that Texas drivers and businesses have a safe, smooth and reliable system of roads and bridges.  Thousands of jobs and the state’s economy are riding on it,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.

The federal surface transportation program remains a critical source of funding for road and bridge repairs and transit improvements in Texas.  With the current program set to expire on December 31, Congress will need to authorize a new federal surface transportation program or extend the current program to allow federal transportation dollars to continue to flow to the state.

“Texas must improve its system of roads, highways, bridges and public transit to foster economic growth, create jobs, avoid business relocations, and ensure the safe, reliable mobility needed to improve the quality of life for all Texans,” said Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of the Texas Good Roads & Transportation Association.

FUTURE MOBILITY IN TEXAS:

Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility
November 2010

Executive Summary

Texas’ 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 Lone Star State, Texas’ 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.  Texas 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 Texas.

As Texas looks to rebound from the current economic downturn, 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.  With unemployment in Texas nearly doubling from 4.4 percent in September 2007 to 8.1 percent in September 2010, making needed improvements to the state’s roads, highways, bridges and transit could provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by creating jobs and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access.

Insufficient roads cost the state’s drivers a total of $22.6 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 level, Texas will be unable to complete numerous projects, leading to deteriorated road and bridge conditions, increased urban congestion and lost opportunities for economic growth.

  • A lack of available transportation funding in the future is projected to lead to more deteriorated road and bridge conditions and increased congestion in the state’s major urban areas. Without additional funds, the state will be unable to complete many needed transportation improvement projects.
  • TRIP estimates that Texas’ 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 $22.6 billion annually in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays.
  • TRIP has calculated the cost to motorists of driving on roads that are deteriorated, congested and lack some desirable safety features in Austin, Dallas / Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. The following chart shows the cost breakdown for these areas.

  • To ensure that federal funding for highways and bridges in Texas and throughout the nation continues beyond the expiration of SAFETEA-LU, Congress needs to approve a new long-term federal surface transportation program by December 31, 2010.
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides approximately $2.25 billion in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $375 million for public transit improvements in Texas.
  • 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 Texas’ 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 current economic downturn, population increases and economic growth in Texas over the past two decades have resulted in increased demands on the state’s major roads and highways.

  • Texas’ population reached 24.8 million in 2009, an increase of 46 percent since 1990.  The state’s population is expected to increase to 31.8 million by 2030.
  • Vehicle travel in Texas increased 45 percent from 1990 to 2008 – from 162.2 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1990 to 234.6 billion VMT in 2008.
  • By 2025, vehicle travel in Texas is projected to increase by another 40 percent.
  • From 1990 to 2008, Texas’ gross domestic product, a measure of the state’s economic output, increased by 93 percent, when adjusted for inflation. This is the fifth highest increase in the nation during that time.

Eleven percent of state-maintained roads and highways provide motorists with a rough ride. Pavement conditions will become significantly more deteriorated in the future under current funding projections.

  • The Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas estimates that under current funding levels the share of state-maintained roads and highways that have pavements in good or better condition will decrease from 86 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2025.
  • Roads in need of repair cost each Texas motorist an average of $343 annually in extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) – $5.3 billion statewide.  Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
  • Pavements are increasingly deteriorated in the state’s major metropolitan areas. Driving on deteriorated roadways increases tire wear, accelerates vehicle depreciation, increases fuel consumption and necessitates additional vehicle repairs. The following chart shows the percentage of poor and mediocre roads in each of the state’s major urban areas, based on TRIP’s analysis using the Federal Highway Administration’s data and criteria, and the annual cost to motorists of driving on these deteriorated roads.

  • The functional life of Texas’ 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.

Seventeen percent of bridges in Texas show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards.  Bridge conditions will worsen in the future without additional transportation funding.

  • Three percent of Texas bridges are 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 bridges are 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.
  • Under current funding conditions, by 2020, the number of bridges that are structurally deficient in Texas is projected to increase by 22 percent from 1,550 to 1,884 and the number of bridges that are functionally obsolete is projected to increase by 15 percent from 7,436 to 8,571.

Texas’ rural traffic fatality rate is nearly three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.  Improving safety features on Texas’ 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 crashes.

  • Between 2004 and 2008, 17,719 people were killed in traffic crashes in Texas, an average of 3,544 fatalities per year.
  • Texas’ traffic fatality rate was 1.48 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2008, higher than the national average of 1.25 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
  • The traffic fatality rate in 2008 on Texas’ rural roads was 2.29 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, which is more than two times the traffic fatality rate of 1.04 on urban roads and highways in the state.
  • Several factors are associated with vehicle crashes that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway design.
  • TRIP estimates that the following roadway characteristics are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic crashes: lane widths, lighting, signage, the presence or absence of guardrails, paved shoulders, traffic lights, rumble strips, obstacle barriers, turn lanes, median barriers, and pedestrian or bicycle facilities,.
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion.  Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, improved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and signals.
  • The cost of serious traffic crashes in which roadway design was likely a contributing factor was approximately $6.5 billion in Texas in 2008. The cost of serious crashes includes lost productivity, lost earnings, medical costs and emergency services.
  • TRIP has calculated the fatality rate per 100,000 population and the cost of serious traffic crashes for each of the state’s major urban areas.

  • 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.

Traffic congestion levels are rising as a result of population, travel and economic growth without a corresponding increase in roadway capacity, leading to increasing travel delays in Texas’ urban areas.

  • In 2008, 47 percent of Texas’ urban Interstates and other highways or freeways were considered congested, carrying a level of traffic that is likely to result in significant delays during peak travel hours.
  • The statewide cost of traffic congestion in lost time and wasted fuel is approximately $10.8 billion annually.
  • Since 1970, vehicle travel in Texas has increased at a rate seven times faster than state-maintained lane miles of roads and highways have been added.  From 1970 to 2009, vehicle-miles-of-travel in Texas increased approximately 3.5 percent per year while lane miles of streets and highways have increased approximately 0.5 percent per year.
  • A recent report by the Reason Foundation calculated the current level of delay in the nation’s largest urban areas, as measured by the Travel Time Index (TTI). The report also projected each city’s TTI in 2030 if additional capacity is not added to the transportation system. The Travel Time Index measures how much longer it takes to make a trip during rush hour, compared the time it would take to make the same trip during non-rush hour. So, a TTI of 1.25 means that the trip takes 25 percent longer during rush hour travel.
  • Travelers in Texas’ major urban areas waste time and fuel each year as a result of congestion-related delays. The chart below details the current and projected Travel Time Index and the cost per-driver of wasted time and fuel for each urban area.

The efficiency of Texas’ 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.  Projects to improve the condition of the nation’s roads and bridges could boost Texas’ and the nation’s economic recovery by providing significant short and long term economic benefits.

  • Annually, $1.17 trillion in goods are shipped from sites in Texas and another $1.24 trillion in goods are shipped to sites in Texas, mostly by trucks.
  • Sixty percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Texas are carried by trucks and another nine 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.

Sources of information for this report include the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the U.S. Census, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the University of Texas Center for Transportation Research, the Reason Foundation and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).  All data used in the report is the latest available.

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