Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Rocky Moretti  202.262.0714 (cell)
Carolyn Bonifas Kelly 703.801.9212 (cell)

 Click here for the full report, infographics and video interview footage with report authors.


Las Cruces, NM – Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost New Mexico motorists a total of $3 billion statewide annually – $1,841 per driver in the Las Cruces 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 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 New Mexico has the third highest rate nationally of traffic fatalities. New Mexico’s major urban roads are congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce.

Driving on roads in the Las Cruces urban area costs the average driver $1,841 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 factor, likely were a contributing factor. The report includes regional pavement and bridge conditions, 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 the Las Cruces urban area are in poor condition and another 36 percent are in mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $910 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Statewide, 34 percent of New Mexico’s major roads are in poor condition and 22 percent are in mediocre condition.

“Transportation infrastructure is a critical component to every city, region and state.  From the start of my administration, improving aged and deteriorated roads has been my number one priority,” said Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull.  “I have overseen the reconstruction of nearly 30 major road segments in Rio Rancho; this report confirms Rio Rancho is focused on the right priorities.  Roads and basic infrastructure are at the core of what we do in government. As simple as it seems, it is hard work and takes a commitment from everyone involved, from the citizens the infrastructure serves to the state and federal governments that make funding available.  Quality infrastructure plays a major part in quality of life and economic prosperity for the people and businesses the infrastructure serves.”

In the Las Cruces urban area, five percent of bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components and 59 percent are rated in fair condition. Statewide, five percent of New Mexico’s bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient and 58 percent are rated in fair condition.

“New Mexico’s highway needs are so essential to our agriculture, mining, oil & gas industries,” said New Mexico State Representative Rebecca Dow. “We need a good balance between populated and rural New Mexico. Our state’s economy will grow only if we have a good transportation system. That’s how jobs are created. We all love New Mexico.”

Traffic congestion in the Las Cruces urban area results in the average driver losing 19 hours annually in traffic delays and wasting nine gallons of fuel, costing the average Las Cruces driver $418 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Statewide, drivers lose $845 million annually as a result of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion. 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 15 percent above November 2019 volumes by November 2021.

Traffic crashes in New Mexico claimed the lives of 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.  In the Las Cruces urban area, on average, 39 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 $513 annually per each Las Cruces area driver.

The efficiency and condition of New Mexico’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $120 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 $5.1 billion in needed, but unfunded, transportation projects throughout the state. The list of the most needed projects is included in the TRIP report.

Improvements to New Mexico’s roads, highways and bridges are funded by local, state and federal governments.  The level of highway investment in New Mexico 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 provide $2.7 billion in road, highway and bridge funding from 2022 to 2026, resulting in a 35 percent increase in federal funding in 2022.

“Additional federal funding from the IIJA will help New Mexico 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. “Without adequate funding, New Mexico’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”