FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 12 2022
Click here for the full report, news conference recording, infographics and video interview footage with report authors.
BUFFALO-NIAGARA FALLS AREA MOTORISTS LOSE NEARLY $1,900 PER YEAR DRIVING ON ROADS THAT ARE ROUGH, CONGESTED & LACK SOME DESIRABLE SAFETY FEATURES – $28 BILLION STATEWIDE
Buffalo, NY – Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost New York motorists a total of $28 billion statewide annually – $1,866 per driver in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls 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 long-term economic growth in New York, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research nonprofit.
The TRIP report, “New York Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout New York, nearly half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition, ten percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/structurally deficient, and 5,019 people lost their lives on the state’s roads from 2015-2019. New York’ major urban roads are congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce. The TRIP report includes statewide and regional pavement and bridge conditions, congestion data, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for the Albany-Schenectady-Troy, Binghamton, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York-Newark-Jersey City, Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica urban areas.
Driving on roads in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls urban area costs the average driver $1,866 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 safety features, while not the primary factor, likely were a contributing factor. 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 14 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls urban area are in poor condition and another 26 percent are in mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $420 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Statewide, 26 percent of New York’s major roads are in poor condition and 19 percent are in mediocre condition.
In the Buffalo-Niagara Falls urban area, nine percent of bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Statewide, ten percent of New York’ bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient.
“The poor condition of Western New York’s roads and bridges is a detriment to private investment at a time of already daunting economic uncertainty. Every year that significant public infrastructure investment is deferred only increases cost, making each individual repair more complicated and time consuming,” said Dottie Gallagher, president & CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “Once again, TRIP’s report provides the comprehensive justification for necessary investment in our transportation infrastructure. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has the potential to equitably distribute federal funds to roads, bridges, public infrastructure and transit projects. Collectively, the private and public sectors must work together to maximize this unique opportunity, with the TRIP report as a guide. As the regional chamber of commerce, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership supports coordinated local, state and federal investment into our transportation system to improve overall travel conditions and spur additional private sector economic activity that will benefit employers, employees and our community.”
Traffic congestion in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls urban area causes 48 annual hours of delay for the average motorist and costs the average driver $1,044 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Buffalo-Niagara Falls drivers waste approximately 14.1 million gallons of fuel each year due to traffic congestion, an average of 23 gallons per motorist. Statewide, drivers lose $15.4 billion annually as a result of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in New York dropped by as much as 45 percent in April 2020 compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year, but rebounded to eight percent below October 2019 levels by October 2021.
“These latest findings by TRIP shed more light on the continued need to address the countless roads and bridges causing businesses and employees time and money,” said Melvin Norris, senior director of government affairs for The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “These careful studies can be used as a roadmap to finally address and solve these problems altogether. We are hopeful that the federal infrastructure package will help in solving this ongoing problem.”
Traffic crashes in New York claimed the lives 5,019 people between 2015 and 2019. New York’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.75 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2019 is lower than the national average of 1.11. In the Buffalo-Niagara Falls urban area, on average, 59 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 factor, were likely a contributing factor was an average of $402 annually per each Buffalo-Niagara Falls area driver.
“All motorists deserve safe roads and bridges while strong infrastructure also has a direct impact on New York’s economy. AAA is pleased that the state legislature has secured record transportation investments and has created new programs to help support cities across the state including Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse in 2022,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA Western and Central New York. “AAA urges lawmakers to continue to prioritize transportation investments to ensure safe and efficient mobility across the state.”
Improvements to New York’s roads, highways and bridges are funded by local, state and federal governments. Annual investment in roads, highways and bridges by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) increased by 37 percent from 2018 to 2021 from approximately $4.3 billion to $6 billion. The level of NYSDOT highway investment is likely to increase further as a result of the five-year federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law in November 2021, which will increase annual federal funding for New York roads, highways and bridges by 52 percent from an average of approximately $1.8 billion annually to $2.7 billion. Federal funds currently provide 38 percent of the revenue used by NYSDOT to fund highway and bridge improvements.
“Improving safety and reducing congestion for travelers and commuters in Western New York should be of the highest priority. We have a once in a generation opportunity to take advantage of the federal funding available with the recent IIJA signed into law this past November,” said Brad Buyers, co-chair of the FAIR (Fair Apportionment of Infrastructure Revenues) Committee. “This presents the opportunity for Western New York to fix congestions problems like the 90/290/33 (Blue Water Tower) and I-190 congestion that plagues motorists on a daily basis. The local network of roads and bridges that connect our communities to state highways have been neglected and underfunded for decades. These local systems are in desperate need of full rehabilitation and modifications to bring them into current standards for the traveling public. Given the federal influx of infrastructure dollars, the opportunity now exists to rebuild and address these local needs.”
The efficiency and condition of New York’ transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $1 trillion in goods are shipped to and from New York, 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. The design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in New York supports approximately 319,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. Approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in New York 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.
“Additional federal funding from the IIJA will allow New York to move forward with needed improvements to its transportation network that will make the state’s roads and bridges smoother, safer and more efficient while boosting the economy and creating jobs,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director. “In addition to the federal investment, it will be critical that New York State continue to increase its level of transportation investment.”