Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost Kansas motorists a total of $2.7 billion statewide annually – as much as $1,600 in some urban areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.
The ability of the Kansas Department of Transportation to repair and improve the state’s transportation system has been hampered by the transfer of $2.4 billion in state highway funds to state general funds between FY2011 and FY2017, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization. Gov. Sam Brownback’s FY 2018/FY 2019 budget proposal would increase transfers of state highway funds to state general funds and other state agencies to $3.4 billion from FY 2011 to FY 2019.
The TRIP report, “Kansas Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Kansas, more than one-third of major, locally and state-maintained urban roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 9 percent of Kansas’ locally and state-maintained bridges are structurally deficient. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. Kansas’ rural roads have a traffic fatality rate four-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads.
Driving on Kansas roads costs the state’s driver $2.7 billion 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 likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculates the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in the Johnson/Wyandotte County, Topeka and Wichita urban areas. The report finds that 37 percent of Kansas’ major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition and 26 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Thirteen percent of the state’s major urban roads are in fair condition and the remaining 24 percent are rated in good condition.
Driving on rough roads costs Kansas drivers an additional $1 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. The report found that deferring maintenance on roads and highways can greatly increase long-term repair costs, with each dollar of deferred maintenance on roads and bridges being found to cost an additional $4 to $5 in needed future repairs.
“The economic vitality of our state depends on Kansas commerce, which in turn relies on safe and well-maintained roads and bridges,” said Rodney George, senior vice president of The Benning State Bank. “Our customers, many of which are farmers who need to get their products to market, depend on good roads every day. The financial stress of an underfunded infrastructure program impacts many more businesses and people than just road and bridge construction companies. Kansas citizens deserve a well-funded and sustainable roads program.”
Traffic congestion throughout the state is worsening, costing the state’s drivers $1 billion annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Traffic congestion robs commuters of time and money and imposes increased costs on businesses, shippers and manufacturers, which are often passed along to the consumer.
Nine percent of Kansas’ bridges are structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks and emergency services vehicles.
Traffic crashes in Kansas claimed the lives of 1,881 people between 2011 and 2015, an average of 376 fatalities per year. Kansas’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.13 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is the same as the national average.
“Our Chamber members and Johnson County voters recognize the importance of a quality, well-maintained, comprehensive transportation network of highways, roads and bridges throughout the state of Kansas,” said Tracey Osborne, president of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce. “They understand that the speed, reliability, capacity and overall effectiveness of the state’s transportation system are crucial not only for quality of life for our residents, but also for job creation, economic development, and business retention and expansion in Kansas. We are all concerned with delays in previously approved projects as well as significant curtailment of regular maintenance of highways and bridges throughout the state as a result of the diversion of funds from the Kansas Highway Fund and the deterioration of the quality of our highways and bridges. This work will only become more expensive with time, costing us more the longer it is put off; thus, we strongly support protecting existing transportation funding sources at the state level and a federal multi-year funding plan for the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.”
The efficiency and condition of Kansas’ transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $395 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Kansas, mostly by truck. Eighty-two percent of the goods shipped annually to and from sites in Kansas are carried by trucks and another 12 percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.
“The condition of Kansas’s transportation system will worsen in the future as additional monies are diverted away from the highway fund, leading to even higher costs for drivers,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “In order to promote economic growth, foster quality of life and get drivers safety and efficiently to their destination, Kansas will need to make transportation funding a top priority.”