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. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road and bridge conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Texas, according to a new report released Oct. 2 by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization.
The TRIP report, “Future Mobility in Texas: The Cost of Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” 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.
Deficient roads place a significant financial burden on the state’s drivers in the form of extra vehicle operating costs as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the cost of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in Texas’ largest urban areas: Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Houston and San Antonio.
According to the TRIP report, in 2010, 18% of Texas’ major urban roads were in poor condition and an additional 27% were in mediocre condition. Under current funding scenarios, statewide pavement quality is projected to decrease by 30% by 2022. Underfunding maintenance on the state’s roads will increase the cost to preserve and restore the pavement by $6.5 billion over the next 10 years.
Commuting and commerce in Texas are constrained by growing traffic congestion, which will increase in the future unless additional highway and transit capacity is provided. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, congestion will cost the state’s economy an average of $20 billion per year over the next 15 years, rising from a current cost of approximately $10.8 billion per year to almost $30 billion in 2025. If roadway efficiency and capacity needs are not addressed, the average congestion-related delay per commuter in Texas’ urban and metropolitan areas will double in 15 years from 37 hours per year to 74 hours per year.
"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 can not afford to pay the price for an inadequate transportation system, and the state can not 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," said Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of Texas Good Roads/Transportation Association.
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.