Rough roads cost motorists hundreds more per year
National report by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
and The Road Information Project
Keeping the nation’s highways in good repair is a daily battle against age, weather and the wear and tear of unrelenting traffic. As a result, 33 percent of the nation’s major highways are rated in poor or mediocre condition, according to a new report, Rough Roads Ahead: Fix Them Now or Pay for It Later. And rough roads cost drivers hundreds of additional dollars annually in vehicle operating costs.
An analysis of data from the Federal Highway Administration finds that in Idaho 25 percent of major highways are in poor or mediocre condition, including state, city and county roads (see related story). Rough roads in Idahoare costing motorists approximately $318 a year in extra vehicle operating costs, according to the report issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and TRIP, a transportation research group.
Shifting from Worst-First to
How do you sell the idea that spending money on a road that looks to be in good condition is a better idea than spending it on one that is bumpy, rutted, rough, and obviously in need of repair?
Very carefully, says Michigan DOT Director Kirk L. Steudle, who believes the shift from worst-first to best-first is a good strategy for long-term asset management.
“It is important to slow the rate of decline in the good road so that it stays good rather than slip – that spending $1 to keep a road in good condition prevents spending $7 to reconstruct it once it has fallen into poor condition.
Michigan always works on a five-year horizon in its pavement preservation program so, he said, it is important to show where plans to fix that poor road fit into the schedule.
“It is easy to fall into the worst-first strategy, particularly when money is tight,” he said. “But that’s when staying focused on keeping good roads good and minimizing the amount of deterioration is even more important.”
The report uses the latest government statistics to show pavement conditions in all 50 states and vehicle operating costs by state and urban areas. Nationally, 72 percent of the Interstate Highway System is in good condition, but age, weather conditions and burgeoning traffic are eroding ride quality.
“The American people are paying for rough roads multiple times,” said Kirk T. Steudle, Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, at a news conference held to release the report. “Rough roads lead to diminished safety, higher vehicle operating costs and more expensive road repairs. It costs $1 to keep a road in good shape for every $7 you would have to spend on reconstruction. It’s another drag on the economy.”
“Our nation has invested $1.75 trillion in our public highway system over the past 50 years,” said John Horsley, AASHTO Executive Director. “We hope Congress will make it possible for the federal government to sustain its share of the increased investment needed to keep America’s roads in good condition. If not, it will cost the American people billions more later.”
The report points out that traffic growth has far outpaced highway construction, particularly in major metropolitan areas. The number of miles driven in this country jumped more than 41 percent from 1990 to 2007 -- from 2.1 trillion miles in 1990 to 3 trillion in 2007. In some parts of the country, dramatic population growth has occurred without a corresponding increase in road capacity, placing enormous pressure on roads that, in many cases, were built 50 years ago.
“The federal stimulus program is providing a helpful down payment towards repairing some of the nation’s rough roads,” said Frank Moretti, TRIP’s Director of Policy and Research. “But it will take a significant long-term boost in investment by all levels of government to provide Americans with a smooth ride.”
The full report is available at http://roughroads.transportation.org, along with examples from states working to improve their highway systems, charts and photographs. Rough Roads is part of Are We There Yet? We Can Be!, AASHTO’s effort to build awareness and support for the nation’s transportation system.