Road, bridge repair list big in Texas

Report shows state faces grim future if needs are not met soon

News TRIP November 18, 2010
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Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Texas motorists a total of $22.6 billion statewide – nearly $2,000 per driver in some areas — due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. An increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal level could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety and support long-term economic growth in Texas, according to a new report released on Nov. 17 by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, “Future Mobility in Texas: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Texas, 11% of state-maintained roads and highways provide motorists with a rough ride. Under current funding levels, the share of state-maintained roads and highways in good or better condition will decrease from 86% in 2010 to 21% in 2025. A total of 17% 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 by 2030. And Texas’ rural traffic fatality rate is nearly three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.

Deficient roads costs each Texas driver as much as $1,969 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. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in Texas’ largest urban areas: Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio.

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 14% of 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.

The TRIP report finds that 35% of major roads in Austin are in poor or mediocre condition. Traffic congestion in the Austin area is worsening, with the average rush-hour trip taking 29% longer to complete than during non-rush hour. The level of congestion-related delays on area roads is expected to nearly double by 2030 unless additional capacity is added. Traffic crashes in the Austin area claimed the lives of 59 people in 2008, giving the area a fatality rate of 7.79 fatalities per 100,000 population.

“It is critical that the state adequately fund its transportation system so that Texas drivers and businesses have a safe, smooth and reliable system of roads and bridges. Thousands of jobs and the state’s economy are riding on it,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.

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