FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Click here for the full report, infographics and video interview footage with report authors.
NEW MEXICO MOTORISTS LOSE $2.7 BILLION PER YEAR ON ROADS THAT ARE ROUGH, CONGESTED & LACK SOME SAFETY FEATURES – UP TO $2,400 PER DRIVER. NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION FACES $2.8 BILLION FUNDING GAP FOR NEEDED PROJECTS
Albuquerque, NM – Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost New Mexico motorists a total of $2.7 billion statewide annually – as much as $2,447 per driver in some urban areas – 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 long-term economic growth in New Mexico, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research nonprofit.
The TRIP report, “New Mexico Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout New Mexico, more than half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, five percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient, and 1,894 people lost their lives on the state’s roads from 2015-2019. New Mexico’s major urban roads are congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce.
Driving deficient New Mexico roads costs the state’s drivers a total of $2.7 billion 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 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 Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe 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 32 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in New Mexico are in poor condition and another 24 percent are in mediocre condition, costing the state’s drivers an additional $1.1 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Twelve percent of New Mexico’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in fair condition and the remaining 32 percent are in good condition.
Five percent of New Mexico’s bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition, meaning there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Fifty-seven percent of the state’s bridges are rated in fair condition and the remaining 38 percent are in good condition. 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 New Mexico, 49 percent of the state’s bridges were built in 1969 or earlier.
“Safe, modern and well-planned roads are more important than ever in our effort to create jobs and improve our economy,” said New Mexico State Senator Michael Padilla, vice chair of the New Mexico State Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee. “For every dollar we invest in our roads, we see a tenfold return for our people.”
In 2019, the state’s transportation system carried 27.8 billion annual vehicle miles of travel (VMT), a 22 percent increase since 2000. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in New Mexico dropped by as much as 41 percent in April 2020 (as compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year), but rebounded to 10 percent below the previous year’s volume in November 2020. Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New Mexico drivers $760 million each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. In the most congested urban areas, drivers lose up to $976 and spend as many as 44 hours per year sitting in congestion.
“Transportation and road infrastructure is so critical to my rural community in the Southern part of our state,” said New Mexico State Representative Willie Madrid, member of the House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee. “Our roads need to be safe for our school bus routes and the safety of our citizens.”
Traffic crashes in New Mexico claimed the lives 1,894 people from 2015 to 2019. New Mexico’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.53 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2019 is the third highest in the U.S. and higher than the national average of 1.11. Traffic crashes imposed a total of $2.5 billion in economic costs in New Mexico in 2019 and traffic crashes in which a lack of adequate roadway safety features were likely a contributing factor imposed $847 million in economic costs.
“New Mexico’s investment in highway and rural road infrastructure is key to ensure New Mexico will continue to provide safe and reliable transportation to rebuild our economy,” said New Mexico State Representative Rebecca Dow, member of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee. “In my district alone, there are currently ten shovel ready pavement preservation projects on I-10 and I-25 that are worth $123 million dollars. The investment New Mexico has provided Space Port America is one example of building new roads to a new economy.”
The efficiency and condition of New Mexico’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $123 billion in goods are shipped to and from New Mexico, 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. Approximately 349,000 full-time jobs in New Mexico in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are dependent on the quality, safety and reliability of the state’s transportation infrastructure network.
A lack of sufficient funding at the local, state and federal levels will make it difficult to adequately maintain and improve the state’s existing transportation system. The New Mexico Department of Transportation has identified nearly $2.8 billion in needed but unfunded transportation projects throughout the state. The list of the most needed projects is included in the TRIP report.
“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, New Mexico’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”