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Bad Roads, Bridges Cost California Motorists $61 Billion Annually


Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost California motorists a total of $61 billion annually – a much as $2,995 per driver in some urban 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 California, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation research organization.

The TRIP report, “California Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout California, more than two-thirds of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 1,603 of 25,657 locally and state-maintained bridges (20 ft. or longer) are structurally deficient. The report also finds that California’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce.

The TRIP report finds that 68 percent of California’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Forty-four percent of California’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor condition and 24 percent are in mediocre condition. 

Thirteen percent of California’s major roads are in fair condition and the remaining 19 percent are in good condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs California motorists a total of $22.1 billion each year in extra vehicle operating costs an average of $843 per driver. These costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

Traffic congestion in California is worsening, costing the the state’s drivers a total of $29.1 billion each year in lost time and wasted fuel. Eighty-five percent of California’s urban Interstates are congested, robbing commuters of time and money and imposing increased costs on businesses, shippers and manufacturers, which are often passed along to the consumer.

More than half – 56 percent – of California’s bridges are at least 50 years old – the eighth highest rate in the nation. Statewide, 1,603 of 25,657 bridges (20 ft. or longer) are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Bridges that are structurally deficient may be posted for lower weight limits or closed if their condition warrants such action.

Traffic crashes in California claimed the lives of 15,730 people over the last five years. California’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.07 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is lower than the national average of 1.18.  

The fatality rate on California’s non-Interstate rural roads is approximately four and a half times higher than on all other roads in the state (3.48 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.76). Traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $9.8 billion in economic costs on California drivers in 2016.

The efficiency and condition of California’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $2.8 trillion in goods are shipped to and from sites in California, 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. Approximately 7.1 million full-time jobs in California in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network.

Investment in California’s roads, highways and bridges is funded by local, state and federal governments. In April 2017, the California legislature enacted SB 1 – the Road Repair and Accountability Act. SB 1 increased state revenues for transportation by increasing the state’s gasoline and diesel taxes, implementing a transportation investment fee on vehicles and initiating an annual fee on zero emission vehicles. It is estimated that SB 1 will increase state revenues for California’s transportation system by an average of $5.2 billion annually over the next decade.

“Driving on deficient California roads comes with a $61 billion yearly price tag for the state’s motorists,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Adequate funding for the state’s transportation system would allow for smoother roads, more efficient mobility, enhanced safety, and economic growth opportunities while saving California’s drivers time and money.”