Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost Oklahoma motorists a total of $5 billion statewide annually – $2,175 per driver in the Oklahoma City urban area – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays.
Adequate investment in transportation improvements at the local and state levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Oklahoma, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) funding has been significantly reduced since 2010, due to funding cuts and diversions, which, combined with proposals to further cut transportation funding, have led ODOT to suspend the start of a dozen projects and consider the suspension of 80 additional projects currently under construction.
The TRIP report, “Oklahoma Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that, throughout Oklahoma, nearly three-fourths of major, locally and state-maintained urban roads are in poor or mediocre condition and, despite significant improvement in the condition of state-maintained bridges, 15 percent of Oklahoma’s locally and state-maintained bridges are structurally deficient – the eighth highest share in the nation. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And, traffic fatalities in Oklahoma increased 6 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Driving on Oklahoma roads costs drivers $5 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 Oklahoma City and Tulsa urban areas. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each area along with a statewide total is below.
Statewide, 45 percent of Oklahoma’s major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition and 29 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Twelve percent of major urban roads are in fair condition and the remaining 14 percent are rated in good condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs Oklahoma drivers $1.9 billion in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
“Transportation infrastructure lays the foundation for economic development,” said John G. Johnson, executive director of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG). “It is critical that our nation invest in the transportation infrastructure that is the lifeblood of businesses, great and small. At ACOG, we are privileged to serve as the stewards of local, state and federal dollars that improve the transportation systems that link Central Oklahomans to each other and the world, and the world to us. We believe improvements to infrastructure increase the quality of our lives and are proud to advocate for these improvements.”
Fifteen percent of all Oklahoma’s bridges, both those maintained by cities and counties and state bridges maintained by ODOT, are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. While this is the eighth highest share in the nation, it marks a significant improvement since 2004, when the state ranked first in the share of structurally deficient bridges with 31 percent.
Traffic congestion in the state’s urban areas is worsening, causing as many as 49 annual hours of delay for some motorists and costing drivers as much as $1,110 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Traffic crashes in Oklahoma claimed the lives of 3,380 people between 2012 and 2016, an average of 676 fatalities per year. The number of fatalities increased 6 percent from 2015 to 2016, from 643 to 682. Oklahoma’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.35 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is higher than the national average of 1.13.
Since 2010, the state legislature has removed $682 million from the state’s road, highway and bridge program. ODOT issued $335 million in bonds to replace some of the lost funds, but repayment of the state’s current $485 million in outstanding transportation bond debt costs $57 million annually, reducing available funds for needed improvements.
Legislation currently being considered by the state legislature would cut an additional $1.5 billion in transportation funding from 2018 to 2025, although a proposed revenue increase may significantly offset the potential cuts. “The condition of Oklahoma’s transportation system will worsen in the future without reliable funding, 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, Oklahoma will need to make transportation funding a top priority.”