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Deficient Roadways Cost New Jersey Drivers Billions

Defective roads and bridges are found to cost New Jersey motorists nearly $2,000 per driver.

Mon February 09, 2015 - Northeast Edition
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Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost New Jersey motorists a total of $11.8 billion statewide annually — nearly $2,000 per driver — 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 and bridge conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in New Jersey, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, D.C., based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, “New Jersey Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout New Jersey, more than one-third of major roads and highways are in poor condition. And more than one-third of New Jersey’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And New Jersey’s rural roads have a fatality rate that is more than two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads.

Driving on deficient roads costs each New Jersey driver $1,951 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 cost of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor.

The TRIP report finds that a total of 35 percent of major roads in New Jersey are in poor condition, while an additional 41 percent are in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 24 percent are in good condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs the average New Jersey motorist an additional $605 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

A total of 36 percent of New Jersey’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Ten percent of New Jersey’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional 26 percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment

Traffic congestion in the state is worsening, costing each driver $861 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Increasing levels of congestion add significant costs to consumers, transportation companies, manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and can reduce the attractiveness of a location to a company to consider expansion or even to locate a new facility.

Traffic crashes in New Jersey claimed the lives of 2,945 people between 2008 and 2012. New Jersey’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.79 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is lower than the national average of 1.13. However, the state’s rural roads have a traffic fatality rate of 1.94 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel — more than two and a half times higher than the fatality rate of 0.74 on all other roads in the state.

“The TRIP report highlights the importance of adequately funding our transportation system in order to reduce the financial burden on motorists, while ensuring that New Jersey businesses have an efficient, reliable system to move people, goods and services,” said Philip Beachem, president of the New Jersey Alliance for Action, a non-partisan, non-profit infrastructure advocacy group.

The efficiency and condition of New Jersey’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $423 billion in goods are shipped from sites in New Jersey and another $350 billion in goods are shipped to sites in New Jersey, mostly by truck.

New Jersey’s efforts to improve its transportation system will be hindered by the state’s need to spend approximately $1.2 billion in 2014 paying off outstanding debt. Over the next decade, a total of approximately $13 billion will be spent on debt service.

The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in New Jersey. From 2008 to 2012, the federal government provided $1.20 for road improvements in New Jersey for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fuel fees. In July 2014 Congress approved an eight-month extension of the federal surface transportation program, which will now run through May 31, 2015. The legislation also will transfer nearly $11 billion into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to preserve existing levels of highway and public transportation investment through the end of May 2015.

“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the local, state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Congress can help by approving a long-term federal surface transportation program that provides adequate funding levels, based on a reliable funding source. If not, New Jersey is going to see its future federal funding threatened, resulting in fewer road and bridge repair projects, loss of jobs, and a burden on the state’s economy.”

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