TRIP Report: Oklahoma Transportation Funding Boost Provided For Needed Road And Bridge Improvements

…But Deficiencies Remain And Future Progress Depends On Sustained Transportation Funding

A new report finds that additional transportation funding provided by the Oklahoma legislature in recent years has allowed the state to accelerate bridge repair and replacement, pavement improvements, and safety upgrades. However, significant deficiencies remain on Oklahoma’s surface transportation system and recent gains could be lost without continued support for transportation maintenance, improvement and expansion.

The report, ‚ÄúFuture Mobility in Oklahoma: Meeting the State‚Äôs Needs for Safe and Efficient Mobility,‚ÄĚ was released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization. It finds that from 2006 to 2010, an additional $748 million was made available for road, highway and bridge repairs in Oklahoma as a result of state legislative action taken since 2006. An additional $1.1 billion is anticipated to be provided for roadways in the state from 2011 to 2015 as a result of state legislative decisions ‚Äď a total of approximately $1.8 billion from 2006 to 2015.

These additional transportation funds have allowed the state to decrease the number of structurally deficient, state-maintained bridges by 32 percent from 2005 to 2010.  By 2015, the number of structurally deficient, state-maintained bridges is projected to decrease 57 percent from 2005 levels. Pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction has been accelerated on Oklahoma’s state-maintained roads. While 5,935 miles of roadway were in good condition in 2004, that number is projected to increase to 6,272 in 2010 and 6,556 in 2015. Since 2004, Oklahoma has experienced a net reduction of more than five percent in the number of miles of state-maintained roads deemed to be in poor condition, from 2,995 to 2,819. By 2015, the reduction is expected to be nearly 10 percent, with 2,722 miles of state-maintained highway rated in poor condition. Between 2006 and 2015, ODOT will have installed 436 total miles of cable-barrier, which will complete planned installations on Oklahoma’s Interstate system. It is imperative that Oklahoma’s transportation system continues to be adequately funded in the future if the state is to continue to improve the system and promote economic recovery and growth.

Despite the progress made in recent years, and the anticipated future improvements, significant deficiencies still exist on the state’s roads and bridges. The TRIP report finds that 18 percent of Oklahoma’s major roads are rated in poor condition and an additional 17 percent are in mediocre condition. In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, 42 percent of major roads are rated in poor condition and an additional 23 percent are in mediocre condition.  The average Oklahoma City area driver loses $662 each year as a result of extra vehicle operating costs due to accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional vehicle repairs, increased fuel consumption and increased tire wear.

Oklahoma ranks second nationally among states with the highest share of its bridges rated structurally deficient.  This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length and are maintained by state, local and federal agencies. Twenty-two percent of bridges in Oklahoma were structurally deficient in 2010 and an additional seven percent were functionally obsolete. In 2010, 12 percent of state-maintained bridges were structurally deficient and nine percent were functionally obsolete.

In addition to deteriorating road and bridge conditions, the state’s roads are also becoming increasingly crowded and commuting and commerce are constrained by growing traffic congestion on Oklahoma’s major urban roads. In 2008, 29 percent of the state’s urban highways were congested during peak travel times. The TRIP report also finds that Oklahoma’s rural, non-Interstate roads have a traffic fatality rate that is nearly three times higher than that on all other roads in the state.

‚ÄúWe applaud the commitment made by the Oklahoma legislature to repair our faltering roads and bridges,‚ÄĚ said Bobby Stem, Executive Director of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors.¬† ‚ÄúObviously, with our high traffic counts, and the age of our major arteries and bridges, it is imperative we continue the work to make Oklahoma‚Äôs road infrastructure a model for the rest of the country.‚ÄĚ

The federal surface transportation program remains a critical source of funding for road and bridge repairs and transit improvements in Oklahoma. The current program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act ‚Äď A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), originally scheduled to expire on September 30, 2009, now expires on September 30, 2011 following a series of 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 Oklahoma.

‚ÄúUnless Oklahoma can find a way to close the transportation funding shortfall, many critically needed projects will remain stranded on the drawing board,‚ÄĚ said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. ‚ÄúIt is critical that Oklahoma adequately fund its transportation system and that Congress produces a timely and adequately funded federal surface transportation program.¬† Thousands of jobs and the state‚Äôs economy are riding on it.‚ÄĚ

FUTURE MOBILITY IN OKLAHOMA:

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

Executive Summary

Oklahoma’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 Sooner State, Oklahoma’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.  Oklahoma must continue to make improvements in its system of roads, highways, bridges and passenger rail to foster economic growth, keep business in the state, and ensure the safe, reliable mobility needed to improve quality of life in Oklahoma.

As Oklahoma looks to rebound from the current recession, the state will need to enhance its surface transportation system by improving the physical condition of its transportation network and enhancing the system‚Äôs ability to provide efficient and reliable mobility for residents, visitors and businesses.¬† With unemployment in Oklahoma more than doubling from 3.2 percent in February 2008 to 6.5 percent in February 2011, making needed improvements to the state‚Äôs roads, highways, bridges and transit could provide a significant boost to Oklahoma’s economy by creating jobs and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access.

Approved in February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided approximately $464.7 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and

$39.2 million for public transit improvements in Oklahoma.  This funding has served 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 Oklahoma’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 or local levels.

Oklahoma has been able to make improvements to its surface transportation system in recent years due to an approximately $1.8 billion increase in transportation funding over the 2006 to 2015 period as a result of action taken by the state legislature. These additional funds have allowed the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to rehabilitate and reconstruct roadways, improve bridge conditions and add critical safety features to the state’s roads. While this funding influx has been helpful, it is imperative that the state maintain the level of funding and continue to make transportation improvements a priority. Recent gains could be lost without continued support for transportation maintenance, improvement and expansion.

At the federal level, Congress is currently deliberating over a long-range federal surface transportation program.¬† The current program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act ‚Äď A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), originally scheduled to expire on September 30, 2009, now expires on September 30, 2011 following a series of 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 Oklahoma, which, in turn, will affect the state‚Äôs ability to improve its residents‚Äô quality of life and enhance economic development opportunities.

In recent years ODOT has been able to accelerate bridge repair and replacement, pavement improvements, and safety upgrades as a result of additional funding provided by the state legislature; however, significant deficiencies still remain. It is imperative that Oklahoma’s transportation system continues to be adequately funded in the future if the state is to continue to improve the system and promote economic recovery and growth.

  • From 2006 to 2010, an additional $748 million was made available for road, highway and bridge repairs in Oklahoma as a result of state legislative action taken since 2006.
  • An additional $1.1 billion is anticipated to be provided for roadways in the state from 2011 to 2015 as a result of state legislative decisions ‚Äď a total of approximately $1.8 billion from 2006 to 2015.
  • ODOT has been able to significantly increase the number of state-maintained bridges rehabilitated or replaced since 2005. Additional transportation funds have allowed the state to decrease the number of structurally deficient, state-maintained bridges by 32 percent, dropping from 1,168 in 2005 to 797 in 2010.¬† By 2015, the number of structurally deficient, state-maintained bridges is projected to decrease to 504, a 57 percent reduction from 2005 levels.
  • In 2005, 149 state-maintained bridges were posted or weight restricted. Additional funds have allowed ODOT to decrease that number to 40 bridges in 2010. By 2014, ODOT projects that the number of posted or weight restricted state-maintained bridges will decrease to zero.
  • Pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction has been accelerated in recent years, improving the condition of Oklahoma’s state-maintained roadways. While 5,935 miles of roadway were in good condition in 2004, that number is projected to increase to 6,272 in 2010 and 6,556 in 2015.
  • The number of miles of Oklahoma’s state-maintained roadways in poor condition has decreased in recent years and will continue to drop. Since 2004, Oklahoma has experienced a net reduction of more than five percent in the number of miles of roads deemed to be in poor condition, from 2,995 to 2,819. By 2015, the reduction is expected to be nearly 10 percent, with 2,722 miles of state-maintained highway rated in poor condition.
  • Between 2006 and 2015, ODOT will have installed 436 total miles of cable-barrier, which will complete planned installations on Oklahoma‚Äôs Interstate system.
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided approximately $464.7 million in stimulus funding for highway and bridge improvements and $39.2 million for public transit improvements in Oklahoma.
  • ARRA funding has served as a down payment on needed road, highway, bridge and transit improvements, but the boost was not sufficient to allow the state to proceed with numerous projects needed to modernize its surface transportation system.¬† Meeting Oklahoma‚Äôs 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 or local levels.
  • To ensure that federal funding for highways and bridges in Oklahoma 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.

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

  • Oklahoma‚Äôs population reached 3.7 million in 2009, an increase of 17 percent since 1990.¬† The state‚Äôs population is expected to grow to 3.9 million by 2025.
  • Vehicle travel in Oklahoma increased 42 percent from 1990 to 2009 ‚Äď from 33.1 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1990 to 47 billion VMT in 2009.
  • By 2025, vehicle travel in Oklahoma is projected to increase by another 35 percent.
  • From 1990 to 2009, Oklahoma‚Äôs gross domestic product, a measure of the state‚Äôs economic output, increased by 62 percent, when adjusted for inflation, higher than the national average of 52 percent.

In 2008, more than a third of major roads in Oklahoma were in poor or mediocre condition, providing motorists with a rough ride.

  • In 2008, 18 percent of Oklahoma‚Äôs major roads were rated in poor condition and 17 percent were rated in mediocre condition.¬† This includes Interstates, highways, connecting urban arterials and key urban streets that are maintained by state, county or municipal governments.
  • 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 each Oklahoma motorist an average of $425 annually in extra vehicle operating costs ‚Äď $978 million statewide.¬† Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
  • In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, where 42 percent of major roads are rated in poor condition and 23 percent are rated in mediocre condition, driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists $662 each year in extra vehicle operating costs. This is the seventh highest cost per driver among U.S. urban areas with a population of 500,000 or more.
  • In the Tulsa metropolitan area, where 36 percent of major roads are rated in poor condition and 26 percent are rated in mediocre condition, driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists $610 each year in extra vehicle operating costs. This is the twelfth highest cost per driver among U.S. urban areas with a population of 500,000 or more.
  • The functional life of Oklahoma‚Äôs roads is greatly affected by the state‚Äôs 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.

Despite the recent improvement in the condition of state-maintained bridges, Oklahoma ranks second nationally among states with the highest share of its bridges rated structurally deficient.  This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length and are maintained by state, local and federal agencies.

  • Twenty-two percent of bridges in Oklahoma were structurally deficient in 2010 (twelve percent of state-maintained bridges were rated structurally deficient in 2010).¬† A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components.¬† These properties have a major bearing in qualifying a bridge for federal bridge replacement or rehabilitation funds.
  • Seven percent of bridges in Oklahoma were functionally obsolete in 2010 (nine percent of state-maintained 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.

Oklahoma’s rural traffic fatality rate is nearly three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.  Improving safety features on Oklahoma’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, 3,821 people were killed in traffic accidents in Oklahoma, an average of 764 fatalities per year.
  • Oklahoma‚Äôs traffic fatality rate was 1.57 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2009, 38 percent higher than the national average of 1.14 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
  • The traffic fatality rate in 2009 on Oklahoma‚Äôs non-Interstate rural roads was 2.71 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, which is nearly three times the traffic fatality rate of 0.96 on all other roads and highways in the state.
  • A disproportionate share of fatalities takes place on Oklahoma‚Äôs non-Interstate rural roads. Approximately 60 percent of fatalities take place on rural roads, although they account for only 35 percent of vehicle travel 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.

Increases in population and vehicle travel in Oklahoma have led to additional traffic congestion in the state’s urban areas.

  • In 2008, 29 percent of Oklahoma’s 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 average rush hour trip in the Oklahoma City metro area takes approximately nine percent longer to complete than during non-rush hour. In the Tulsa area, rush hour trips take seven percent longer to complete than during non-rush hour.
  • Drivers in the Oklahoma City area lose $575 each year due to lost time and wasted fuel as a result of congestion. Each Tulsa area driver loses $407 per year due to congestion.

The efficiency of Oklahoma’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.

  • Annually, $117 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Oklahoma and another $135 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Oklahoma, mostly by trucks.
  • Eighty percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Oklahoma are carried by trucks and another six 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 on the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, 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 Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Census, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Reason Foundation and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).  All data used in the report is the latest available.

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