FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
10: 00 a.m. CDT Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Click here for the full report, infographics, news conference recording and video interview footage with report authors.
LAFAYETTE AREA MOTORISTS LOSE MORE THAN $2,000 PER YEAR ON ROADS THAT ARE ROUGH, CONGESTED & LACK SOME DESIRABLE SAFETY FEATURES – $7.6 BILLION STATEWIDE. LACK OF FUNDING WILL LEAD TO FURTHER DETERIORATION, INCREASED CONGESTION AND HIGHER COSTS TO MOTORISTS
Lafayette, LA – Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost Louisiana motorists a total of $7.6 billion statewide annually – $2,027 per driver in the Lafayette urban area – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support short- and long-term economic growth in Louisiana, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research nonprofit.
The TRIP report, Louisiana Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Louisiana, nearly half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, 13 percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient, and more than 3,700 people lost their lives on the state’s roads from 2015-2019. Louisiana’s major urban roads are congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce.
Driving on roads in the Lafayette urban area costs the average driver $2,027 per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway features, while not the primary cause, likely were a contributing factor. The report includes regional pavement and bridge conditions, a list of the most congested corridors, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for the Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans and Shreveport urban areas and statewide. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in the state’s largest urban areas, along with a statewide total, is below.
The TRIP report finds that 39 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in the Lafayette urban area are in poor condition and another 23 percent are in mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $782 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Statewide, 25 percent of Louisiana’s major roads are in poor condition and 22 percent are in mediocre condition.
“It’s painfully obvious to any driver who has traveled Louisiana’s roads that our state has an endless number of infrastructure needs,” said Stephen Waguespack, president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). “The condition of our roads and bridges has a real impact on our homegrown companies and ultimately, their bottom line. The business community looks forward to working with Congress, the Legislature, local governments and other stakeholders to ensure we advance a common-sense solution to address these problems.”
In the Lafayette urban area, eight percent of bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Statewide, 13 percent of Louisiana’s bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, the seventh highest share in the nation. Thirty-nine percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 48 percent are rated good.
“If the Governor and the Legislature can’t lead on transportation issues to significantly increase funding, Louisiana will continue to rank as one of the worst places for infrastructure and, here in our Capital Region, for traffic congestion,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “When will they decide that enough is enough? When will we decide to hold them accountable for their failure to pass structural reforms for transportation? They can do it this year, this Legislative session, and they should. Infrastructure is the key to Louisiana’s future job growth, for everyone.”
Traffic crashes in Louisiana claimed the lives of 3,738 people from 2015 to 2019, 20 percent of whom were pedestrians or bicyclists. Louisiana’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2019 is higher than the national average of 1.11 and the eighth highest in the U.S. In the Lafayette urban area, on average, 36 people were killed in traffic crashes each year from 2015 to 2019. The financial impact of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway safety features, while not the primary cause, were likely a contributing factor was an average of $507 annually per each Lafayette area driver.
“The Baton Rouge and New Orleans metros have long been bound by economic ties, but the deteriorating and congested infrastructure between the two severely limits growth,” said Erin Monroe Wesley, 2021 chair of the SoLA Super Region Committee and southeast vice president of government and public affairs for Cox Communications. “This is a fixable problem. Lost revenue for businesses, lost time for commuters, and lost opportunity for everyone does not have to be our future reality. Investment in our infrastructure must be a priority.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in Louisiana dropped by as much as 36 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to six percent below the previous year’s volume in January 2021. Traffic congestion in the Lafayette urban area causes 32 annual hours of delay and 17 gallons of wasted fuel for the average motorist, costing the average Lafayette driver $738 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Statewide, drivers lose $3 billion annually as a result of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion.
“This report highlights the high price we pay for our congestion,” said Scott Kirkpatrick, executive director of Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions (CRISIS). “We need to get serious about infrastructure funding to build a south bridge in Baton Rouge and allow interstate drivers to bypass this congestion.”
The efficiency and condition of Louisiana’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $584 billion in goods are shipped to and from Louisiana, relying heavily on the state’s network of roads and bridges. Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to re-locate or expand. Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system.
“These conditions are only going to get worse, increasing the additional costs to motorists, if greater investment is not made available at the federal, state and local levels of government,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “Without adequate funding, Louisiana’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”