TRIP REPORTS: GEORGIA TRANSPORTATION FUNDING INADEQUATE TO KEEP PACE WITH NEEDED ROAD, BRIDGE & SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS WHILE SUPPORTING MOBILITY & ECONOMIC GROWTH

A smooth, safe and efficient transportation network will be key to future economic growth and progress in Georgia, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit. The statewide report,Moving Georgia Forward: Road and Bridge Conditions, Traffic Safety, Travel Trends and Funding Needs in the Atlanta Regioncompiles a series of 12 regional reports that examine travel and population trends, road and bridge conditions, traffic safety, congestion, and transportation funding needs in Georgia. TRIP has also prepared reports for each of the following regions: AtlantaCentral Savannah River AreaCoastal GeorgiaGeorgia MountainsHeart of Georgia AltamahaMiddle GeorgiaNortheast GeorgiaNorthwest GeorgiaRiver ValleySouthern GeorgiaSouthwest Georgia and Three Rivers.

TRIP surveyed Georgia counties in late 2019 and early 2020 regarding the condition and funding needs of their transportation system. According to results of that survey, 22 percent of county-maintained roads in Georgia are in poor condition. Current funding will only allow for 12 percent of the miles of county-maintained roads in need of resurfacing and eight percent of county-maintained roads in need of reconstruction, to be addressed this year. In fact, the amount anticipated to be spent by Georgia county governments in 2020 on highways and bridges is only 52 percent of the total amount needed.

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Commissioner Russell McMurry said, “In 2018, our great team at GDOT finished over 90 percent of our projects under budget, even as we’ve seen tremendous political leadership in taking Georgia’s transportation infrastructure investment to the next level. All the same, as one of the fastest growing states in America, we know that our future needs far outstretch the available public resources. The data in these reports really helps quantify that need in a clear, concise way that will enable us to make wise strategic decisions about future investments.”

According to the TRIP report, ten percent (1,551 of 14,799) of locally and state-maintained bridges in Georgia are rated as deficient. Bridges that are rated as deficient meet at least one of the following criteria: significant deterioration of a major component of the bridge; restriction to carrying only lighter-weight vehicles; or a carrying capacity of 18 tons or less which restricts larger commercial vehicles. 

The statewide TRIP report includes a list of the 10 most deficient bridges in each region, based on the number of categories in which a bridge ranked deficient and average daily traffic (ADT). TRIP’s reports for each region include lists of up to 40 of the most deficient bridges in each area.

“Under the strong leadership of Governor Brian Kemp, Speaker David Ralston, and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, Georgia was yet again ranked as the number one state in which to do business,” said Georgia Chamber CEO Chris Clark. “That continues the previous decade of strong leadership, and we know that one critical component of that economic success is the quality of our transportation network. As we look to a future that will catapult us to the fifth largest state in America by 2030, we know that transportation investment will only grow as a pillar of our economic success.”

A total of 7,192 people were killed in traffic crashes in Georgia from 2014 to 2018, an average of 1,438 fatalities per year. The state had a traffic fatality rate of 1.14 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2018, near the national average of 1.13. 

Improving safety on Georgia’s roadways can be achieved through further improvements in vehicle safety; improvements in driver, pedestrian, and bicyclist behavior; and, a variety of improvements in roadway safety features.

Reliable highway access is critical to the economic development of the Atlanta Region. At a time when a significant increase in freight deliveries are forecast for Georgia, the quality of the region’s transportation system will have a significant impact on its ability to attract economic development. Every year, $843 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Georgia, mostly by trucks. Seventy-six percent of freight delivered to or from sites in Georgia are shipped by truck and another 14 percent are shipped by multiple modes, including trucking.  The value of freight shipped to and from sites in Georgia, in inflation-adjusted dollars, is expected to increase 115 percent by 2045 and by 89 percent for goods shipped by trucks.  But, the ability of the state’s freight transportation system to efficiently and safely accommodate the growing demand for freight movement could be hampered by deficient roads and bridges, including bridges that are not able to carry large commercial vehicles.

“A robust and reliable transportation system that is maintained in good condition, can accommodate large commercial vehicles, and is reliable and safe is vital to the quality of life of the Atlanta region’s residents, the success and growth of businesses, and the positive experience of its visitors,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. 

Moving Georgia Forward: Road and Bridge Conditions, Traffic Safety, Travel Trends and Funding Needs in Georgia 

 

Founded in 1971, TRIP® of Washington, DC, is a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues.  TRIP is sponsored by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers; businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and construction; labor unions; and organizations concerned with efficient and safe surface transportation.

Introduction

Accessibility and connectivity are critical factors in a region or state’s quality of life and economic competitiveness. The growth and development of a region hinges on the ability of people and businesses to efficiently and safety access employment, customers, commerce, recreation, education and healthcare via multiple transportation modes. The quality of life of residents in Georgia and the pace of the state’s economic growth are directly tied to the condition, efficiency, safety and resiliency of the state’s transportation system. The necessity of a reliable transportation system in Georgia has been reinforced during the coronavirus pandemic, which has placed increased importance on the ability of a region’s transportation network to support a reliable supply chain.

 Providing a safe, efficient and well-maintained 21st century transportation system, which will require long-term, sustainable funding, is critical to supporting economic growth, improved safety and quality of life throughout the area.  A lack of reliable and adequate transportation funding could jeopardize the condition, efficiency and connectivity of the region’s transportation network and hamper economic growth. 

TRIP’s “Moving Georgia Forward” report examines travel and population trends, road and bridge conditions, traffic safety, congestion, and transportation funding needs in Georgia. This statewide report compiles data included in the 12 reports produced by TRIP for the following regions in Georgia: AtlantaCentral Savannah River AreaCoastal GeorgiaGeorgia MountainsHeart of Georgia AltamahaMiddle GeorgiaNortheast GeorgiaNorthwest GeorgiaRiver ValleySouthern GeorgiaSouthwest Georgia and Three Rivers

Sources of information for this report include a survey of county governments by TRIP, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U. S. Census Bureau, the Center for Transportation Studies, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  All data used in the report are the most recent available. 

Population, Travel and Economic Trends in Georgia 

To foster quality of life and spur continued economic growth throughout Georgia, it will be critical that the state provide an efficient, safe and modern transportation system that can accommodate future growth in population, tourism, business, recreation and vehicle travel.

Statewide, Georgia’s population grew to approximately 10.5 million residents in 2018, an eight percent increase since 2010.[i] From 2014 to 2018, annual VMT in Georgia increased by 18 percent, to approximately 131 billion miles traveled annually.[ii]  Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in Georgia dropped by as much as 38 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to 12 percent below the previous year’s volume in August 2020.[iii]

Pavement Conditions in Georgia

The life cycle of Georgia’s roads is greatly affected by state and local governments’ ability to perform timely maintenance and upgrades to ensure that road and highway surfaces last as long as possible.  

Based on results of a TRIP survey of Georgia counties conducted in late 2019 and early 2020, TRIP has calculated the share of county-maintained roads in Georgia in poor, fair and good condition. Survey responses from Georgia counties indicate that 22 percent of county-maintained roads are in poor condition, 33 percent are in fair condition, and 44 percent are in good condition.[iv]

The chart below details the share of county-maintained miles of roadways in good, fair and poor condition in each of Georgia’s 12 regions and statewide. 

Chart 1. Share of county-maintained roads in good, fair or poor condition.

Source: TRIP survey of Georgia counties, conducted December 2019 – February 2020.

            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 fair condition may show signs of significant wear and may also have some visible pavement distress. Most pavements in fair condition can be repaired by resurfacing, but some may need more extensive reconstruction to return them to good condition.

TRIP’s survey of county governments in Georgia found that, of the miles of county-maintained roadway in need of resurfacing, current budgets will only allow for resurfacing of 12 percent of those miles in 2020.[v] And, of the miles of county-maintained roadway in Georgia in need of reconstruction, only eight percent will be able to be reconstructed in 2020 under current funding conditions.[vi]

Chart 2. Share of county-maintained roads in need of resurfacing or reconstruction in Georgia vs. share of roads that are expected to be resurfaced or reconstructed in 2020.

Source: TRIP survey of Georgia counties, conducted December 2019 – February 2020.

Of the miles of county-maintained roads in need of resurfacing or reconstruction in 2020, the chart below details the share that are expected to be resurfaced or reconstructed in 2020 in each of Georgia’s 12 regions and statewide, based on current funding. 

Chart 3. Share of county-maintained roads in need of resurfacing or reconstruction that are expected to be addressed in 2020 based on current funding. 

Source: TRIP survey of Georgia counties, conducted December 2019 – February 2020.

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 foundation. Road surfaces at intersections are more prone to deterioration because the slow-moving or standing loads occurring at these sites subject the pavement to higher levels of stress. It is critical that roads are fixed before they require major repairs because reconstructing roads costs approximately four times more than resurfacing them.[vii] As roads and highways continue to age, they will reach a point of deterioration where routine paving and maintenance will not be adequate to keep pavement surfaces in good condition and costly reconstruction of the roadway and its underlying surfaces will become necessary.

TRIP’s survey of Georgia counties indicates that, statewide, the amount of money anticipated to be spent in 2020 on roads, highways and bridges is only 52 percent of the total amount that needs to be spent to make significant progress towards achieving a state of good repair for roads, highways and bridges. 

Chart 3.  Pavement Condition Cycle Time with Treatment and Cost

Source:  North Carolina Department of Transportation (2016).  2016 Maintenance Operations and Performance Analysis Report

Long-term repair costs increase significantly when road and bridge maintenance is deferred, as road and bridge deterioration accelerates later in the service life of a transportation facility and requires more costly repairs.  A report on maintaining pavements found that every $1 of deferred maintenance on roads and bridges costs an additional $4 to $5 in needed future repairs.[viii]

Bridge Conditions in Georgia 

Bridges form key links in Georgia’s highway system, providing communities and individuals access to employment, schools, shopping and medical facilities, and facilitating commerce and access for emergency vehicles.

Ten percent (1,551 of 14,799) of Georgia’s locally and state-maintained bridges are rated as deficient.[ix] This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length. Each day, 5.1 million vehicles travel over deficient bridges in Georgia.[x]

A bridge is deemed deficient if it meets at least one of the following criteria: The physical condition of a bridge deck, superstructure or substructure is rated a four or below on a scale of one to nine, indicating significant deterioration of a major component  of the bridge;  A bridge is restricted to carrying only lighter-weight vehicles; A bridge has a carrying capacity of 18 tons or less, which restricts it from carrying larger commercial vehicles. 

Bridges that are deficient may be posted for lower weight limits or closed if their condition warrants such action. Deteriorated bridges can have a significant impact on daily life. Restrictions on vehicle weight may cause many vehicles – especially emergency vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses and farm equipment – to use alternate routes to avoid posted bridges.  Redirected trips also lengthen travel time, waste fuel and reduce the efficiency of the local economy.  Bridges that have a carrying capacity below 18 tons largely are unable to carry large commercial vehicles, which can harm a region’s economic competitiveness by restricting access for commercial goods.  

The service life of bridges can be extended by performing routine maintenance such as resurfacing decks, painting surfaces, ensuring that a facility has good drainage and replacing deteriorating components. But most bridges will eventually require more costly reconstruction or major rehabilitation to remain operable.         

 The chart below ranks the five most deficient bridges (carrying a minimum of 500 vehicles per day) in each Georgia region based on the number of categories where the bridge ranked “deficient” (P = physical condition of deck, superstructure or substructure based on a rating of four or below for its deck, substructure or superstructure; C = the carrying capacity of the bridge is 18 tons or less; R = the bridge is restricted to only carrying lighter-weight vehicles), and average daily traffic (ADT). 

Chart 4. Most deficient bridges in Georgia by region.

Source: List of deficient bridges provided by Georgia Department of Transportation. Rankings calculated 

by TRIP.

Georgia Traffic Safety 

A total of 7,192 people were killed in traffic crashes in Georgia from 2014 to 2018, an average of 1,438 fatalities per year.[xi]  Georgia had a traffic fatality rate 1.14 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2018, near the national average of 1.13.[xii]

Chart 5.  Traffic Fatalities in Georgia, 2014 – 2018. 

Source: TRIP analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

Three major factors are associated with fatal vehicle crashes: driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features. It is estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes. Roadway features that impact safety include the number of lanes, lane widths, lighting, lane markings, rumble strips, shoulders, guard rails, other shielding devices, median barriers and intersection design.  

Improving safety on Georgia’s roadways can be achieved through further improvements in vehicle safety; improvements in driver, pedestrian, and bicyclist behavior; and, a variety of improvements in roadway safety features. The severity of serious traffic crashes could be reduced through roadway improvements, where appropriate, such as converting intersections to roundabouts; removing or shielding roadside objects; the addition of left-turn lanes at intersections;  the signalization of intersections; adding or improving median barriers; improved lighting; adding centerline or shoulder rumble strips; providing appropriate pedestrian and bicycle facilities, including sidewalks and bicycle lanes; providing wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; providing better road and lane markings; and updating rail crossings.

The U.S. has a $146 billion backlog in needed roadway safety improvements, according to a 2017 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  The report found implementing these cost-effective and needed roadway safety improvements on U.S. roadways would save approximately 63,700 lives and reduce the number of serious injuries as a result of traffic crashes by approximately 350,000 over 20 years.    

Importance of Transportation System to Georgia’s Economy 

Reliable highway access is critical to Georgia’s economic development.  At a time when a significant increase in freight deliveries are forecast for Georgia, the quality of its transportation system will have a significant impact on Georgia’s ability to attract economic development. 

The amount of freight transported in Georgia and the rest of the U.S. is expected to increase significantly as a result of further economic growth, changing business and retail models, increasing international trade, and rapidly changing consumer expectations that place an emphasis on faster deliveries, often of smaller packages or payloads.  

Every year, $843 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Georgia, mostly by trucks.[xiii]  Seventy-six percent of freight delivered to or from sites in Georgia are shipped by truck and another 14 percent are shipped by multiple modes, including trucking.[xiv]  The value of freight shipped to and from sites in Georgia, in inflation-adjusted dollars, is expected to increase 115 percent by 2045 and by 89 percent for goods shipped by trucks.[xv] But, the ability of the Georgia’s freight transportation system to efficiently and safely accommodate the growing demand for freight movement could be hampered by deficient roads and bridges, including bridges that are not able to carry large commercial vehicles.

The need to improve the state’s freight network is occurring at a time when the nation’s freight delivery system is being transformed by advances in vehicle autonomy, manufacturing, warehousing and supply chain automation, increasing e-commerce, and the growing logistic networks being developed by Amazon and other retail organizations in response to the demand for a faster and more responsive delivery and logistics cycle.

Investments in transportation improvements in Georgia play a critical role in the state’s economy.  A report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association found that the design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure supports the equivalent of approximately 110,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy, earning these workers approximately $3.9 billion annually.[xvi]  These jobs include approximately 55,000 full-time jobs directly involved in transportation infrastructure construction and related activities.  Spending by employees and companies in the transportation design and construction industry supports an additional 55,000 full-time jobs in Georgia.[xvii] Transportation construction in Georgia contributes an estimated $703 million annually in state and local income, corporate and unemployment insurance taxes and the federal payroll tax.[xviii]

Approximately 1.9 million full-time jobs in Georgia in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are dependent on the quality, safety and reliability of the state’s transportation infrastructure network. 

Local, regional and state economic performance is improved when a region’s surface transportation system is expanded or repaired. This improvement comes as a result of the initial job creation and increased employment created over the long-term because of improved access, reduced transport costs and improved safety.  

Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to re-locate or expand. Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system.   Highway accessibility was ranked the number one site selection factor in a 2020 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.[xix]

Conclusion

            As Georgia looks to support further economic and population growth, it will be critical that the state is able to provide a well-maintained, safe and efficient 21st century network of roads, highways, bridges and transit that can accommodate the mobility demands of a modern society.

            A robust and reliable transportation system that is maintained in good condition, can accommodate large commercial vehicles, and is reliable and safe, is vital to the quality of life of Georgia residents, the success and growth of businesses and the positive experience of its visitors.  

Visit TRIP to see full report.


[i] U.S. Census Bureau (2018).  

[ii] U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration: Highway

Statistics 2000 and 2018.  

[iii] Federal Highway Administration – Traffic Volume Trends.

[iv] TRIP survey of Georgia counties, December 2019-February 2020. 

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Selecting a Preventative Maintenance Treatment for Flexible Pavements.  R. Hicks, J. Moulthrop.  Transportation Research Board. 1999.  Figure 1. 

[viii] Pavement Maintenance, by David P. Orr, PE Senior Engineer, Cornell Local Roads Program, March 2006.

[ix] Georgia Department of Transportation.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Federal Highway Administration National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2014-2018.

[xii] Federal Highway Administration National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2014-2018. County VMT data comes from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

[xiii] TRIP analysis of Federal Highway Administration’s Freight Analysis Framework data (2018).  Data is for 2016.  https://faf.ornl.gov/fafweb/.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] American Road & Transportation Builders Association (2015).  The 2015 U.S. Transportation Construction Industry Profile. https://www.transportationcreatesjobs.org/pdf/Economic_Profile.pdf

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Ibid

[xix] Area Development Magazine (2020).  34th Annual Survey of Corporate Executives: Availability of Skilled Labor New Top Priority.  https://www.areadevelopment.com/Corporate-Consultants-Survey-Results/Q1-2020/34th-annual-corporate-survey-16th-annual-consultants-survey.shtml