Road-maintenance problems up costs for drivers

News AASHTO Journal October 17, 2006
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A study released recently by The Road Information Program (TRIP) concluded that substandard pavement conditions on 26% of the nation's major urban and suburban roads are costing drivers money--the costs of maintaining their vehicles levied by wear-and-tear on rough roads, USA Today reported.

The percentage of roads rated substandard rose three percentage points between 1999 and 2004, according to TRIP, a research agency funded by the insurance, highway construction and automotive industries. The 2004 statistics were the most recent available from federal sources.

"The worse shape roads are in, the quicker cars and trucks deteriorate, and motorists find themselves in the garage or back in the showroom," said Frank Moretti, TRIP's director of policy and research. "Driving on rough roads is costing the average urban motorist about $383 annually in [added] vehicle-maintenance costs."

Poor pavement also can pose safety issues as drivers swerve to avoid potholes or other pavement problems, and increase wear-and-tear on buses, said William Ankner, executive director of the Missouri Transportation Institute.

TRIP assessed pavement conditions in metropolitan areas that have populations of at least 500,000, studying roads that carry 73% of the 1.8 trillion miles driven annually in urban America.

USA Today reported that Atlanta was an exception to the national trend toward deteriorating pavement condition in urban areas. In the Atlanta metro area, at least 75% of highways and major streets are in good condition, TRIP said; the same is true in Phoenix and Orlando, Fla.

"Our board adopted a policy in the '70s that we were not going to build anything we cannot maintain," said Harold Linnenkohl, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation and president of AASHTO. "Our goal is to resurface 10% of our highway system each year. We stayed with that for a long time, but we're facing some budget crunches like everybody else. So, in recent years in some areas, we're doing 5 to 6%."

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