WEST VIRGINIA KEY TRANSPORTATION FACTS
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF DEFICIENT ROADS
Driving on West Virginia roads that are deteriorated, congested and that lack some desirable safety features costs West Virginia drivers a total of $1.6 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.
WEST VIRGINIA ROADS PROVIDE A ROUGH RIDE
Due to inadequate state and local funding, more than half of major roads and highways in West Virginia are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on rough roads costs the average West Virginia driver $726 annually in additional vehicle operating costs – a total of $825 million statewide. The West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) maintains 34,420 miles of roads and highways – the sixth largest state-maintained system and 89 percent of all roadway miles in the state – the largest share among all states. The chart below details pavement conditions on major roads in the state’s largest urban areas and statewide.
WEST VIRGINIA BRIDGE CONDITIONS
Twenty-one percent of West Virginia’s bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition, meaning there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. This is the second highest share in the U.S. Fifty-three percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 26 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 West Virginia, 32 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.
WEST VIRGINIA CONGESTION
In 2019, the state’s transportation system carried 19.1 billion annual vehicle miles of travel (VMT). Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in West Virginia dropped by as much as 40 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to eleven percent below the previous year’s volume in November 2020. Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost West Virginia drivers $300 million each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. In the most congested urban areas, drivers lose up to $572 and spend as many as 26 hours per year sitting in congestion. The chart below shows the annual number of hours lost to congestion per driver and the average cost per driver of lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion in the state’s largest urban areas.
WEST VIRGINIA TRAFFIC SAFETY AND FATALITIES
From 2015 to 2019, 1,394 people were killed in traffic crashes in West Virginia. In 2019, West Virginia had 1.36 traffic fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled, higher than the national average of 1.11 and 13th highest in the U.S. The traffic fatality rate on West Virginia’s rural, non-Interstate roadways in 2018 was nearly twice as high as that on all other roads (2.10 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 1.15).
Traffic crashes imposed a total of $1.4 billion in economic costs in West Virginia in 2019 and traffic crashes in which a lack of adequate roadway safety features were likely a contributing factor imposed $478 million in economic costs. The chart below shows the number of people killed in traffic crashes in the state’s largest urban areas between 2015 and 2019, and the cost of traffic cashes per driver.
The health and future growth of West Virginia’s economy is riding on its transportation system. Each year, $125 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in West Virginia, 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 West Virginia, in inflation-adjusted dollars, is expected to increase 85 percent by 2045 and by 82 percent for goods shipped by trucks.
According to a report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in West Virginia supports approximately 24,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. These workers earn $588 million annually. Approximately 332,000 full-time jobs in West Virginia in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network.
WEST VIRGINIA TRANSPORTATION FUNDING
Investment in West Virginia’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.
In 2015 a report by the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways found that West Virginia needed to increase its annual investment in its highway and bridge system by $750 million annually for needed repairs and an additional $380 million annually for needed expansion to the system – a total of approximately $1.1 billion annually.
In 2017 the West Virginia legislature approved increases in the state’s motor fuel, registration fees, and taxes on new car purchases to support additional highway investment. State voters subsequently approved a referendum 73 to 27 percent allowing the state to borrow up to $1.6 billion to fund Governor Jim Justice’s Roads to Prosperity Initiative.
The current federal transportation legislation, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), was set to expire on September 30, 2020. Congress extended it by one year to September 30, 2021. The FAST Act is a major source of funding for road, highway and bridge repairs in West Virginia. Throughout the FAST-Act – fiscal years 2016 to 2021 – the program will provide $2.8 billion to West Virginia for road repairs and improvements, an average of $465 million per year. From 2014 to 2018, the federal government provided $2.05 for road improvements in West Virginia for every $1.00 state motorists paid in federal highway user fees, including the federal state motor fuel tax.
Sources of information for this report include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U.S. Census Bureau, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Cover photo credit: Timothy Mainiero.