Let's do the bad news first: "Driving on rough roads costs the average American motorist approximately $400 a year in extra vehicle operating costs. Drivers living in urban areas with populations over 250,000 are paying upwards of $750 more annually because of accelerated vehicle deterioration, increased maintenance, additional fuel consumption, and tire wear caused by poor road conditions."
That's the conclusion of Rough Roads Ahead: Fix Them Now or Pay for It Later, a report released today by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and TRIP, a national transportation research group. The report further asserts that "one-third of the nation’s major highways, including Interstates, freeways and major roads, are in poor or mediocre condition. Roads in urban areas, which carry 66 percent of the traffic, are in much worse shape." According to Kirk Steudle, Director of the Michigan DOT, “Rough roads lead to diminished safety, higher vehicle operating costs and more expensive road repairs. It costs $1 to keep a road in good shape for every $7 you would have to spend on reconstruction.”
Okay, but the silver lining here is that a dollar of road maintenance pays for itself several times in public benefits--in limiting the amount of reconstruction needed and in reducing wear and tear on everyone's vehicles. And, that's what we've been saying all along with the stimulus funds we've directed toward roadwork. Over and over, I've said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is creating jobs and paving the way for a robust 21st century movement of goods and people.
And the experts gathered for the release of today's report attest to that. According to TRIP's Frank Moretti, Director of Policy and Research, “The federal stimulus program is providing a helpful down payment towards repairing some of the nation’s rough roads.”
Still, ARRA is only a short-term measure. Soon, Congress will take up reauthorization of surface transportation for the next five years, and I hope our legislators consider this report's valuable conclusions as they deliberate. Said John Horsley, AASHTO Executive Director. “We hope Congress will make it possible for the federal government to sustain its share of the increased investment needed to keep America’s roads in good condition. If not, it will cost the American people billions more later.”
That would be bad news indeed.