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TRIP Report Exposes Poor Condition of New York Roads

Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost New York State motorists a staggering total of $24.9 billion statewide annually – as much as $2,798 per driver in some 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, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in New York, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, “New York’s Top Transportation Issues: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout New York, 38 percent of major locally and state-maintained urban roads are in poor condition. Nearly two-fifths of New York’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, nearly 5,800 people were killed in crashes on New York’s roads from 2010 to 2014.

Driving on deficient roads costs some urban area drivers as much as $2,798 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 costs of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in the Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, New York City, Poughkeepsie-Newburgh, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica urban areas. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each area along with a statewide total is below.

The TRIP report finds that 38 percent of major urban roads in the state are in poor, while 42 percent are in mediocre or fair condition, and the remaining 21 percent are in good condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs New York State motorists a total of $6.3 billion 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 state is worsening, costing the state’s driver a total of $12.4 billion annually in lost time and wasted fuel.

A total of 39 percent of New York’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Twelve percent of New York’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional 27 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.

“Today’s TRIP report highlights the poor conditions that New Yorkers across the state face on our roads and bridges every day,” said John Corlett, Legislative Committee chairman at AAA New York State. “In 2015 alone, AAA serviced more than 200,000 flat tire calls throughout New York – many of which were due to potholes and other hazardous road conditions. This is a symptom of the lack of adequate investment in roads. I look forward to working with the Governor and State Legislature to fully fund the needs of our road and bridge system, which will enhance safety and help improve the quality of life for the millions of drivers who travel on our roads and bridges every day.”

Traffic crashes in New York claimed the lives of 5,775 people between 2010 and 2014. New York’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.92 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is lower than the national average of 1.09.

The efficiency and condition of New York’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $550 billion in goods are shipped from sites in New York and another $597 billion in goods are shipped to sites in New York, mostly by truck.

The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in New York. From 2009 to 2013, the federal government provided $1.45 for road improvements in New York for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fuel fees. Signed into law in December 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, provides modest increases in federal highway and transit spending, allows states greater long-term funding certainty and streamlines the federal project approval process. But the FAST Act does not provide adequate funding to meet the nation’s need for highway and transit improvements and does not include a long-term and sustainable funding source.

These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the local, state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Without additional transportation funding New York’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, the state will miss out on opportunities for economic growth and quality of life will suffer.”