FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Click here for the full report and a news conference recording.
INCREASED STATE & FEDERAL FUNDS ALLOW VIRGINIA TO ADDRESS TRAFFIC CONGESTION, TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD AND BRIDGE CONDITION CHALLENGES; INFLATION AND POTENTIAL DECLINE IN GAS TAX REVENUES COULD REDUCE PROGRESS AS STATE TRAVEL RETURNS TO PRE-COVID LEVELS
Roanoke, VA – Over the last decade, state and federal transportation funding increases have allowed Virginia to move forward on numerous projects and programs to improve the condition, reliability and safety of the commonwealth’s transportation network. Despite these funding increases, Virginia still faces challenges in improving and maintaining its transportation system to accommodate future growth, maintain the system, and sustain adequate investment. This is according to a new report from TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit based in Washington, DC, which looks at the condition, reliability, safety and funding needs of Virginia’s roads, highways and bridges. In addition to the statewide data, the TRIP report includes regional data for the Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Roanoke areas.
The TRIP report, “Keeping Virginia Mobile: Providing a Modern, Sustainable Transportation System in the Old Dominion State,” finds that throughout Virginia, increasing traffic congestion impedes personal and commercial mobility, the state’s traffic fatality rate rose significantly from 2019 to 2022, more than one-third of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and four percent of bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient.
Over the last decade, state and federal legislation have boosted transportation funding in Virginia, beginning with the approval of HB 2313 in 2013, the largest transportation funding bill in the history of the Commonwealth. In 2020, the Governor’s Omnibus Bill (HB1414/SB890) made numerous changes to Virginia’s transportation funding system to increase transportation revenue. Federal transportation funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will provide $7.7 billion in state funds for highway and bridge investments in Virginia over five years, including a 40 percent funding increase in FY 2022. As a result of these transportation funding increases numerous projects have been completed or are underway throughout the state to increase the capacity of the transportation network, enhance safety through a variety of programs and projects, and increase mobility throughout the commonwealth. A list of projects and programs is included in the report.
“Virginia’s economy depends on a high-quality, robust multimodal transportation network,” said Keith Martin, executive vice president for public policy and government relations at the Virginia Chamber. “Businesses rely on efficient and effective transportation infrastructure to move goods and services to markets. The TRIP report highlights the importance of transportation investments to ensuring continued economic growth and supporting our goal of being the best state for business.”
From 2000 to 2019, vehicle travel in Virginia increased by 14 percent. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in Virginia dropped by as much as 45 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year). By 2022, vehicle miles of travel (VMT) in Virginia had rebounded to two percent below 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. During the first six months of 2023, VMT in Virginia was three percent higher than the first six months of 2022, surpassing pre-pandemic VMT levels. Congested roads, highways and bottlenecks choke commuting and commerce and cost Virginia drivers $5 billion in 2022 in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. The average Roanoke driver loses 25 hours to congestion each year and $629 in lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion.
In the Roanoke area, 35 percent of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing the average Roanoke driver $407 annually in extra vehicle operating costs (VOC). Extra vehicle operating costs total $3.2 billion statewide and include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Statewide, more than one-third of major locally and state-maintained roads are deteriorated, with 13 percent in poor condition and 23 percent in mediocre condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs the average Virginia driver an additional $536 each year.
One percent of bridges in the Roanoke area are in poor/structurally deficient condition, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Statewide, four percent of Virginia’s bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient. Most bridges are designed to last 50 years before major overhaul or replacement, although many newer bridges are being designed to last 75 years or longer. In Virginia, 44 percent of the state’s bridges are 50 years old or more.
“A safe and efficient transportation system is not a luxury; it’s a necessity,” said Janet Brooking, executive director of DRIVE SMART Virginia. “It supports our economy, quality of life, and the well-being of everyone who calls Virginia home.”
From 2018 to 2022, 4,479 people were killed in traffic crashes in Virginia. The state’s 2022 traffic fatality rate of 1.20 fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled is lower than the national average of 1.35. In Virginia, traffic fatalities began to increase in 2020 even as vehicle travel levels decreased dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of traffic fatalities continued to increase in 2021 and 2022. The number of annual fatalities in Virginia increased 21 percent from 2019 to 2022, from 831 to 1,005, and the state’s fatality rate per 100 million VMT increased 23 percent, from 0.97 to 1.20 during that time. This significant increase in the number of fatalities and the rate of fatalities per 100 million VMT happened while vehicle travel in the state decreased by two percent overall from 2019 to 2022.
“Virginia is putting increased state and federal transportation dollars to good use and making needed improvements to its transportation network,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “But, the state’s ability to provide a smooth, reliable and safe transportation system depends on long-term, consistent and sufficient funding. A safe and reliable transportation system that is maintained in good condition and offers improved mobility and accessibility to meet the needs of Virginia residents, businesses, and tourists alike, is critical to keeping Virginia mobile and moving the state forward.”