New Mexico Motorists Lose $2.7 Billion Per Year Due to Bad Roads

Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost New Mexico drivers a total of $2.7 billion annually – as much as $2,058 per driver in some areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. 

Adequate investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels is needed to 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 by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-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 more than half of the state’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition and six percent of locally and state-maintained bridges are structurally deficient. This includes all bridges that are 20 ft. or more in length. The report also finds that New Mexico’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce. The report also includes a list of approximately $3 billion in needed but unfunded transportation projects across the state. 

Driving on deficient New Mexico roads costs drivers a total of $2.7 billion annually in 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 roadway features likely were a contributing factor.  

The TRIP report finds that 31 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads in New Mexico are in poor condition and another 25 percent are rated in mediocre condition, costing the state’s drivers an additional $1.2 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs. These costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

“Our state is at a critical point to increase funding for road and highway improvements to keep people and products moving safely in New Mexico,” said New Mexico State Representative Patricia Lundstrom, chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. “I believe that strategic transportation investments are one of the best approaches to stimulate our economy and provide a competitive advantage for our state.”

Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New Mexico drivers $784 million each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. In the most congested urban areas, drivers lose up to $1,069 and more than one full working week each year in congestion. From 2013 to 2017, vehicle miles of travel in New Mexico increased 18 percent, the fastest rate of growth in the nation during that period.

“New Mexico needs a safe and reliable roads system throughout our state,” said New Mexico State Senator Clemente Sanchez, chairman of the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. “Our rural ranchers, farmers, and small businesses depend on well-maintained roadways for their livelihoods. So many of our children ride school buses every day and deserve safe roads.” 

Statewide, 6 percent of bridges – a total of 251 bridges – are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports, or other major components. Nearly half – 48 percent – of New Mexico’s bridges are at least 50 years old.

“New Mexico is in the enviable position of having huge budget surpluses for FY 19 and FY 20. The extra revenues will exceed $1 billion dollars for each of these years,” said New Mexico State Representative Cathrynn Brown. “The increases are due primarily to the hard work and productivity of the New Mexico oil and gas industry. As a point of reference, the state’s overall budget for FY 20 will be just north of $7 billion dollars. The New Mexico Legislature and the Governor would be wise to invest a substantial portion of the budget surplus in public infrastructure, especially roads, highways, and bridges. In terms of infrastructure, we have a lot of catching up to do.”

From 2013 to 2017, 1,772 people were killed in traffic crashes in New Mexico. Traffic crashes imposed a total of $2.2 billion in economic costs in New Mexico in 2017 and traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $726 million in economic costs each year. New Mexico’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.28fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is higher than the national average of 1.16.

“Many of our constituents are concerned about our roads and aging infrastructure, which is why we are making this a priority,” said New Mexico State Representative Patricio Ruiloba, chairman of the House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee. “Improving and expanding our transportation infrastructure so that New Mexicans have safe roads, and ensuring that our businesses can have an efficient and less costly way of transporting goods and services is critical. In our rural state, road infrastructure is essential to our economic growth. We recognize the need to improve and expand our transportation infrastructure so all New Mexicans can benefit. As we continue to find new ways to improve roads, this funding supports our state’s economic development and provides safe travel for our families, students and business communities. Good roads reduce vehicle maintenance costs and fuel consumption, and make travel safer for our motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and students.” 

The efficiency and condition of New Mexico’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $124 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in New Mexico, mostly by trucks, 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. Nearly 350,000 full-time jobs in New Mexico in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network. 

“Driving on deficient roads comes with a $2.7 billion price tag for New Mexico motorists,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Adequate funding for the state’s transportation system would allow for smooth.”

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