Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Texas motorists a total of $25.1 billion statewide annually – as much as $1,800 per driver in some urban areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road and bridge conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Texas, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization.
The TRIP report, “Texas Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Texas, 16 percent of major urban roads and highways provide motorists with a rough ride. Nearly one-fifth of Texas bridges are in need of replacement, repairs or modernization. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And, Texas’ traffic fatality rate is significantly higher than the national fatality rate.
Driving on deficient roads costs each Texas driver as much as $1,850 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 in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in Texas’ largest urban areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Houston and San Antonio. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each urban area along with a statewide total is below.
Sixteen percent of Texas’ major urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition. An additional 51 percent of the state’s major urban roads are rated in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 33 percent are rated in in good condition. Driving on rough roads costs all Texas motorists a total of $5.7 billion annually in extra vehicle operating costs. Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
Increasing levels of traffic congestion cause significant delays in Texas, particularly in its larger urban areas, choking commuting and commerce. Traffic congestion robs commuters of time and money and imposes increased costs on businesses, shippers and manufacturers, which are often passed along to the consumer.
A total of 19 percent of Texas’ state maintained bridges are currently in need of replacement, repair or modernization. Two percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient, meaning there is significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge. An additional 17 percent of the state’s bridges are designated as functionally obsolete because they no longer meet current highway design standards.
Traffic crashes in Texas claimed the lives of 16,041 people between 2009 and 2013. Texas’ traffic fatality rate of 1.41 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is 27 percent higher than the national average of 1.11. The traffic fatality rate on Texas’ non-Interstate rural roads was 2.63 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, more than two-and-a-half times higher than the 0.99 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on all other roads and highways in the state.
The efficiency of Texas’ transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs.
The federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in Texas. But a lack of adequate funding of the federal program may result in a significant cut in federal funding for Texas’ roads, highways and bridges. The impact of inadequate federal surface transportation revenues could be felt as early as August when the balance in the Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to drop below $1 billion, which will trigger delays in the federal reimbursement to Texas and other states for road, highway and bridge projects, which would likely result in Texas and other states delaying numerous projects.
“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Unless Congress acts this year to adequately fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund, Texas is going to see its federal funding decrease dramatically starting this summer. This will result in fewer road repair projects, loss of jobs and a burden on the state’s economy.”