Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost California motorists a total of $44 billion statewide annually – nearly $2,500 per driver in the Los Angeles urban area – 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 California, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization.
The TRIP report, “California Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout California, 34 percent of major urban roads and highways are in poor condition. More than a quarter of California’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And California’s rural non- interstate traffic fatality rate is more than four times the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.
Driving on deficient roads costs each Los Angeles area driver $2,458 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 finds that a total of 65 percent of major roads in the Los Angeles urban area are rated in poor condition and an additional 24 percent are rated in mediocre condition, costing the average Los Angeles motorist an additional $955 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Traffic congestion in the area is worsening, causing 61 annual hours of delay for the average Los Angeles motorist and costing each driver $1,300 annually in lost time and wasted fuel.
“Our goal is to responsibly manage the state’s valuable infrastructure – starting with our new ‘fix it first’ policy – because every dollar invested in maintenance saves taxpayers from future repairs that are ten times more expensive,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “California motorists are currently enjoying highways that are in the best condition in more than a decade, and stable transportation funding would allow us to continue to provide safe and sustainable transportation infrastructure that enhances California’s economy and livability.”
A total of 28 percent of California’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Eleven percent of California’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional 17 percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
“California’s roads and highways are among the most heavily traveled in the nation and this report reflects the fact that our transportation system is simply worn out,” said Will Kempton, executive director of Transportation California. “Unfortunately, local and state agencies don’t have adequate resources to keep these facilities in good condition. However, it would be cheaper to pay to fix our aging system than paying the extra costs of driving on rough roads, and the longer we delay, the more expensive the cost of repair will be.”
Traffic crashes in California claimed the lives of 14,878 people between 2008 and 2012 California’s non-Interstate rural roads are particularly deadly, with a fatality rate in 2012 of 2.61 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, more than four times the fatality rate of 0.63 on all other roads and highways in the state. California’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.88 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is lower than the national average of 1.13.
“Well maintained infrastructure is an integral part of fostering economic growth and enhancing our quality of life,” said Tom Holsman, Associated General Contractors of California’s chief executive officer. “Investment in road and highway infrastructure is vital to our state’s productivity, competiveness and economic well-being – now and for future generations who will need new roads, ports and bridges.”
The efficiency of California’s 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 California. From 2008 to 2012, the federal government provided $1.32 for road improvements in California for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fees. Congress recently approved an eight-month extension of the federal surface transportation program, which will now run through May 31, 2015. The recent legislation will also transfer nearly $11 billion into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to preserve existing levels of highway and public transportation investment through the end of May 2015.
“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. “Congress can help by approving a long-term federal surface transportation program that provides adequate funding levels, based on a reliable funding source. If not, California is going to see its future federal funding threatened, resulting in in fewer road and bridge repair projects, loss of jobs and a burden on the state’s economy.”