NEWS

Des Moines and Davenport rough roads cost area drivers more than $500 each year

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Forty-one percent of Des Moines urban roads are in poor condition, costing area drivers $543 each year in additional vehicle operating costs. Des Moines ranks eighth among small cities (250,000-500,000) in the percentage of roads in poor condition and twelfth in the annual cost to motorists of driving on rough roads. In Davenport, where 35 percent of major urban roads are in poor condition, drivers pay $508 each year in extra vehicle operating costs. Davenport ranks eleventh among small cities in the percentage of roads in poor condition and ranks fourteenth in the cost to motorists of driving on deteriorated roads. Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, increasing the frequency of needed maintenance, and increasing fuel consumption and tire wear.

These findings were released today by TRIP, a national transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. The report, “Hold the Wheel Steady: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother,” examines urban pavement conditions, transportation funding and economic development.

Nationwide, 24 percent of major metropolitan roads – interstates, freeways and other critical local routes – have pavements in poor condition, resulting in rough rides and costing the average urban motorist $402 annually in additional vehicle operating costs, Additional pavement condition and vehicle operating costs can be found in the full report and appendices.

“With state and local governments facing looming budget deficits and without a long-term federal surface transportation program in place, road conditions are projected to get even worse in the future,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director.  “Repairing rough urban roads could ease the burden on drivers and provide a smoother ride while creating jobs and boosting the economy.”  The FHWA found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.

According to the U.S. DOT, through 2025, the U.S. faces a $189 billion shortfall in the cost to maintain urban roadways in their current condition and a $375 billion shortfall in the cost to make significant improvements to urban roadways. State transportation funding is threatened by the continuing fiscal crisis in state budgets, which in fiscal year 2010 prompted a $74.4 billion reduction in overall state spending.  States’ financial needs continue to far surpass expenditures, with the National Governors Association projecting total state shortfalls for 2010 – 2011 of more than $127 billion.  

The lack of a long-term federal surface transportation program, which would provide a predictable level of federal funding, is impeding the ability of states to plan and implement large-scale rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. Congress is currently debating over the long-range federal surface transportation program. The current program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), was originally scheduled to expire on September 30, 2009. Following five short-term extensions by Congress, the legislation now expires on December 31, 2010.

Highway preservation projects provide significant economic benefits by improving travel speeds, capacity, load-carrying abilities and safety, and reducing operating costs for people and businesses.   Roadway repairs also extend the service life of a road, highway or bridge, which saves money by either postponing or eliminating the need for more expensive future repairs.            

According to the TRIP report, transportation agencies can reduce pavement life cycle costs by adopting a pavement preservation approach that emphasizes making early initial repairs to pavement surfaces while they are still in good condition and the use of higher-quality paving materials, which reduces the cost of keeping roads smooth by delaying the need for costly reconstruction.