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TRIP: Arkansas Roads Need Help Fast


Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost Arkansas motorists a total of $3.2 billion statewide annually – as much as $1,822 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, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Arkansas, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation research nonprofit.

The TRIP report, “Arkansas Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Arkansas, more than half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, 5% of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 ft. or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient, and 2,551 people lost their lives on the state’s roads from 2014-2018. 

Arkansas’ major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce. The TRIP report includes regional pavement and bridge conditions, congestion data, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Little Rock-North Little Rock- Conway, Pine Bluff and West Memphis urban areas and statewide.

“The findings of the TRIP report reaffirm the fact that the economic growth of our region and the quality of life of our residents is directly linked to the condition, safety and efficiency of our transportation system,” said Joe Quinn, executive director of the Arkansas Good Roads Foundation. “Adequate investment in improving our roads and bridges puts Arkansans to work today and creates a lasting asset for future generations.”

Driving on deficient Arkansas roads costs motorists a total of $3.2 billion 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. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in the state’s largest urban areas, along with a statewide total, is below.

The TRIP report finds that 26% of major locally and state-maintained roads in Arkansas are in poor condition and another 26% are in mediocre condition, costing the state’s motorists an additional $1.6 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 Arkansas is worsening, causing up to 48 annual hours of delay for some motorists and costing drivers as much as $711 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Statewide, drivers lose $780 million annually as a result of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion.

Traffic crashes in Arkansas claimed the lives 2,551 people between 2014 and 2018. Arkansas’ overall traffic fatality rate of 1.41 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2018 is the 12th highest in the nation and significantly higher than the national average of 1.13. Statewide, the financial impact of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway safety features were likely a contributing factor was $780 million.

Five percent of Arkansas’ bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Forty-four percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 51% are in good condition.

The efficiency and condition of Arkansas’ transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $226 billion in goods are shipped to and from Arkansas, relying heavily on the state’s network of roads and bridges. 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. The design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in Arkansas supports approximately 35,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. 

Approximately 594,000 full-time jobs in Arkansas 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.

“These conditions are only going to get worse, increasing the additional costs to motorists, if greater investment is not made available at the federal, state and local levels of government,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “Without adequate funding, Arkansas’ transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”