The report includes regional pavement condition, congestion and highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.
Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Alabama motorists a total of $3.1 billion statewide annually 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 Alabama, according to a new report released Aug. 20, by TRIP, a Washington, D.C .-based national transportation organization.
The TRIP report, “Alabama Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Alabama, 15 percent of major urban roads and highways are in poor condition. Nearly a quarter of Alabama’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 Alabama’s rural non-interstate traffic fatality rate is nearly double the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.
Driving on deficient roads costs state drivers as much as $1,562 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 calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in Alabama’s largest urban areas: Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.
“Those of us in the business community are painfully aware of the deficiencies in Alabama’s transportation infrastructure and the direct impact it has on our competitiveness,” said William J. Canary, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. “It is time to move together as a state to solve this problem and ensure a broad range of economic opportunities. Alabama’s future depends on it.”
A total of 23 percent of Alabama’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Nine percent of Alabama’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional 14 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 crashes in Alabama claimed the lives of 4,435 people between 2008 and 2012. Alabama’s traffic fatality rate of 1.33 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is significantly higher than the national average of 1.13. The traffic fatality rate on Alabama’s non-Interstate rural roads in 2012 was 1.92 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, nearly double the 0.99 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on all other roads and highways in the state.
“The importance of a long-term sustainable highway construction program is critical to the future of Alabama’s continued economic health. The safety of the traveling public is just one part of the need for such a program,” said Billy Norrell, CEO of the Alabama Associated General Contractors. “As our state highways and bridges continue to be strained by increased traffic and wear and tear, there is no choice but to inject additional resources into the system. Current funding levels are restricting the department into more of a maintenance only organization, capable of less and less new capacity work. We are confident our elected officials will make the difficult but proper choices when it comes to the future of Alabama’s infrastructure.”
The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in Alabama. From 2008 to 2012, the federal government provided $1.32 for road improvements in Alabama for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fees. Congress recently approved an eight-month extension of the federal surface transportation program, which will now run through May 31, 2015. The recent legislation will also 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. The following projects would require significant federal funding to proceed prior to 2019: the construction of several new routes in Montgomery, Birmingham, Anniston and Auburn to relieve congestion and provide for future growth, widening portions of US-80 in Sumter and resurfacing a portion of I-10 in Mobile.
“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the 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, Alabama is going to see its future federal funding threatened, resulting in in fewer road and bridge repair projects, loss of jobs and a burden on the state’s economy.”