FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Report available at: tripnet.org
TUSCALOOSA AREA DRIVERS LOSE MORE THAN $1,700 PER YEAR ON ROADS THAT ARE ROUGH, CONGESTED & LACK SOME SAFETY FEATURES – $5.3 BILLION STATEWIDE. LACK OF FUNDING WILL LEAD TO FURTHER ROAD AND BRIDGE DETERIORATION, INCREASED CONGESTION & HIGHER COSTS TO MOTORISTS
Eds.: The statewide report includes regional pavement conditions, bridge conditions, congestion levels, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for the state’s largest urban areas. TRIP has also prepared customized regional reports for the Anniston-Oxford-Gadsden, Birmingham, Florence, Decatur-Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa urban areas
Tuscaloosa, Alabama– Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost the average Tuscaloosa area driver $1,713 per year – a total of $5.3 billion statewide – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Adequate investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels is needed to relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Alabama, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national nonprofit transportation research organization.
The TRIP report, “Tuscaloosa Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the Region’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility” finds that in the Tuscaloosa area, over half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition and four percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or longer) are structurally deficient. The report also finds that the Tuscaloosa area’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce. In addition to the statewide report, TRIP has also prepared regional reports for the Anniston-Oxford-Gadsden, Birmingham, Florence, Decatur-Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa urban areas.
Driving on deficient Tuscaloosa area roads costs the average driver $1,713 annually in 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 roadway features likely were a contributing factor.
The TRIP report finds that 35 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in the Tuscaloosa area are in poor condition and another 20 percent are rated in mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $773 each year in extra vehicle operating costs. These costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Driving on rough roads costs the state’s drivers a total of $2 billion each year.
Traffic congestion in the Tuscaloosa area is worsening, causing 18 annual hours of delay for the average motorist and costing the average driver $448 each year in lost time and wasted fuel. Alabama drivers lose a total of $1.5 billion annually in the form of lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion.
“The cost of doing nothing to improve Alabama’s road and bridge system has only become more evident since TRIP’s last report on our transportation system in 2017. We have done so much to improve our transportation system in Tuscaloosa over recent years with the limited resources available, but there is still much more work to be accomplished,” said Jim Page, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. “Not only in Tuscaloosa, but in urban and rural communities all across Alabama, economic development is completely dependent on highway accessibility and an efficient road and bridge system.”
In the Tuscaloosa area, four percent (17 of 479) bridges are rated structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length. Nearly half – 49 percent – of Alabama’s bridges are at least 50 years old.
On average, 43 people were killed in traffic crashes in the Tuscaloosa area each year from 2015 to 2017. The financial impact of traffic crashes costs each Tuscaloosa area driver an average of $492 annually – a total of $1.8 billion statewide. Alabama’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.34 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is higher than the national average of 1.16. The fatality rate on Alabama’s non-interstate rural roads is more than two and a half times higher than on all other roads in the state (2.38 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.87).
The buying power of the state’s 18 cents-per-gallon fuel tax, last raised in 1992, has been more than cut in half by inflation and increased fuel economy. The vast majority of Alabama’s current transportation budget is devoted to preserving the existing system, leaving only $150 million available annually for new projects.
The efficiency and condition of Alabama’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $432 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Alabama, mostly by trucks, 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. More than 940,000 full-time jobs in Alabama in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are dependent on the state’s transportation network.
“Driving on deficient roads comes with a $1,713 yearly price tag for Tuscaloosa motorists – $5.3 billion statewide,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Adequate funding for the state’s transportation system would allow for smoother roads, more efficient mobility, enhanced safety, and economic growth opportunities while saving Alabama’s drivers time and money.”