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Ramps leading to the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge during construction in 1959. Today these ramps carry heavy industrial truck traffic and do not meet modern safety standards. Serious crashes are common at this location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdated bridges and roadways cost Texans an estimated $23 billion a year.

 

 

 

 

Potholes, Congestion and Lack of Safety

Improvements Cost You Up to $2,000 a Year


October 15, 2012

 

Crumbling roads are costing the typical Texas driver big bucks every year according to a recent report titled “Future Mobility in Texas.”

 

Not surprisingly it says roads will continue to deteriorate unless new funding sources are found to expand the state's ability to maintain highways as well as build new roads to accommodate growth. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could help relieve congestion, improve roadways, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Texas, the report says.

 

 “Texas has fallen behind in relieving traffic congestion on its major roadways and maintaining pavement conditions on these roads,” said Frank Moretti, director of Policy and Research at The Road Information Program (TRIP), the national research organization that produced the study.

 

Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Texas motorists a total of $23.2 billion statewide – nearly $2,000 annually per driver in some areas - due to higher vehicle operating costs (VOC), traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.

  
Poor, unsafe and congested roads cost the average Houston driver an extra $1,900 per year, more than motorists in other major Texas cities.  In DFW the number is $1,550 while San Antonio is at $1,425 and Austin is at $1,235, according to the study. These costs come in the form of extra vehicle operating costs as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, increased vehicle depreciation, 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 throughout Texas 45% of state and locally maintained urban roads and highways provide motorists with a rough ride. A total of 18% of Texas bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with travel delays in some areas expected to double in the next 15 years. And Texas’ rural non-interstate traffic fatality rate is significantly higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.


Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of Texas Good Roads/Transportation Association, said motorists today may be lulled into a false sense of security when they view the Texas roadscape.  In areas such as Interstate 35 in Central Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth region drivers are seeing billions of dollars' worth of road work under way and incorrectly assume that the state has the revenue needed to meet transportation needs. But in reality many big-dollar projects under way are backed state debt, toll-dependent debt and one-time federal stimulus funding. The state has nearly maxed out its debt capacity, he said.

 

The Texas Tribune talked to State Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso about the report. The former chair of the House Transportation Committee, said the report still does not address the main issue -- how are we going to pay for what needs to be done. "The average Texan is paying $3 less a year in gas tax than they were in 1991," he said, noting that few politicians would vote to raise the tax with today's high fuel prices. "The Legislature is going to continue to kick the can down the road on this."

 

The TRIP report finds that 47% of major roads in the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington metropolitan area are in poor or mediocre condition.  Under current funding scenarios, statewide pavement quality is projected to decrease by 30 percent by 2022. Under funding maintenance on the state’s roads will increase the cost to preserve and restore the pavement by $6.5 billion over the next ten years.


 Traffic congestion in the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington area is worsening, causing 45 annual hours of delay for the average motorists. The average Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington driver wastes an average of 22 gallons of fuel each year due to congestion.


"The TRIP report demonstrates the impact of underfunding our transportation system, in the form of significant costs passed on to the state's drivers. Texas motorists cannot afford to pay the price for an inadequate transportation system, and the state cannot afford missed economic opportunities due to congested and deteriorated roads. While the cost to address these deficient roads is significant, the cost of doing nothing is much higher," Olsen said.


Traffic crashes in the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington area claimed the lives of 312 people in 2010. The traffic fatality rate in 2010 on Texas’ non-Interstate rural roads was 1.67 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, 43 percent higher than the 1.17 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on all other roads and highways in the state. A disproportionate share of highway fatalities occur on Texas’ rural, non-Interstate roads.  In 2010, 34 percent of traffic fatalities in Texas occurred on rural, non-Interstate routes, while only 23 percent of vehicle travel in the state occurred on these roads.


 According to the TRIP report 3% of Texas’ bridges are structurally deficient, meaning there is significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports, or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or are closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency service vehicles. An additional 15% of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete. These bridges no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment with the approaching road. Bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete are safe for travel and are monitored regularly by the organizations responsible for maintaining them.