Wisconsin’s Deteriorated Urban Roads Cost State Drivers $1.2 Billion Annually in Extra Vehicle Operating Costs

Urban Pavement Conditions Likely to Worsen as Traffic Volumes and Cost of Pavement Materials Rise While Highway Revenue Falls Short; Greater Investment Needed to Ensure Smoother Rides and Longer-Lasting Roads

WASHINGTON, March 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Wisconsin’s major urban roadways are deteriorating at a time when transportation funding in the state is inadequate to keep pace with needed repairs, and the cost of those repairs is rapidly increasing. This is according to a new national report released today by TRIP, a national transportation research group. The TRIP report evaluated pavement conditions on state and local major urban roadways and calculated the extra vehicle operating cost (VOC) to motorists of driving on roads in poor condition.

The report found that Milwaukee region led the larger urban areas in the state in the share of its major roads which were rated to be in poor condition, with 25 percent of its major roads and highways found to provide motorists with a rough ride, based on pavement data gathered in 2006. Milwaukee motorists lose $447 annually as a result of extra vehicle operating costs due to driving on roads in poor condition. In Madison, 20 percent of major urban roadways are in poor condition, costing drivers there $431 each year in extra vehicle operating costs.

The following chart shows pavement conditions and extra vehicle operating costs in Wisconsin’s largest urban areas, based on the TRIP report:

  Milwaukee    Poor   Mediocre   Fair    Good      VOC
25% 31% 18% 26% $447

Madison 20% 35% 26% 18% $431

“This report confirms what Wisconsin drivers already know – our roads are in rough shape. The conditions today are most certainly even worse than in 2006 when this data was gathered. Wisconsin’s transportation funding has simply lagged significantly behind the escalating cost of building and maintaining roads. We are seeing the results,” said Craig Thompson executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.

According to the TRIP report, continued increase in urban traffic is putting significant wear and tear on the nation’s urban roads. Vehicle travel in Wisconsin increased by 36 percent from 1990 to 2005 and is anticipated to increase by another 30 percent by 2020.

TRIP’s report, “Keep Both Hands on the Wheel: Metro Areas With the Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make Our Roads Smoother,” found that the twenty large urban regions (500,000+ population), with the greatest share of major roads and highways with pavements in poor condition are: Los Angeles, 65%; San Francisco-Oakland, 62%; Honolulu, 62%; San Jose, 60%; San Diego, 53%; New Orleans, 50%; New York City, 49%; Sacramento, 46%; Baltimore, 42%; Oklahoma City, 41%; Tulsa, 40%; Albuquerque, 39%; Omaha, 38%; San Antonio, 37%; Philadelphia, 37%; Riverside-San Bernardino, 35%; Oxnard-Ventura, 35%; Houston, 33%; Fresno, 30%; and Washington, DC, 30%.

“With state and federal transportation funding falling short, the cost of materials and repairs rising and traffic volumes increasing, transportation agencies will face a significant challenge in improving urban pavement conditions,” said William M. Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “The nation needs to develop a new long-term vision for its highway system that would include improving conditions and safety and reducing traffic congestion.”

Although the share of major urban roads in poor condition has decreased since 2002, conditions are likely to worsen in the future under current transportation funding projections. A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report to Congress indicates that through 2025 the nation will fall short of the cost of maintaining current urban pavement conditions by $119 billion and will fall short of making significant repairs by $270 billion. Maintaining urban roadways in their current condition would require a 56 percent increase in annual funding, while significantly improving the physical condition of urban roadways would require a 126 percent increase in annual funding.

Additional findings of the TRIP report include the following:

— Federal funding for highway repairs and improvements in the fiscal year 2009, starting on October 1, 2008, may be reduced as a result of a forecast deficit of $3.2 billion in the Highway Account of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Congress is currently considering providing additional highway funding to avoid steep cuts in federal highway funding.

— Eighteen states expect to face budget shortfalls totaling more than $14 billion during the current 2008 fiscal year. Twenty-five states expect to face budget shortfalls of at least $36 billion during fiscal year 2009, largely as a result of shrinking tax revenues. Because most states are not allowed to run a deficit or borrow to cover their expenditures, it is likely that states will have to consider drawing down reserves, cutting expenditures or raising taxes.

— The cost of roadway improvements is escalating because the price of key materials needed for highway and bridge construction has increased rapidly. Over the four-year period from January 2004 to January 2008 the average cost of materials used for highway construction, including asphalt, concrete, steel, lumber and diesel has increased by 46 percent.

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Source: TRIP