Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Oklahoma motorists a total of $4.9 billion statewide annually – $2,242 per driver in the Oklahoma City urban area – 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, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, create jobs 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 TRIP report, “Oklahoma Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Oklahoma, 28 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor condition and another 42 percent are in mediocre or fair condition. Despite recent improvements, nearly a quarter of Oklahoma’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 an average of 684 people were killed annually in crashes on Oklahoma’s roads from 2010 to 2014.
Driving on deficient roads costs each Oklahoma City area driver $2,242 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 roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa urban areas.
While the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) revenue has increased in recent years, allowing for significant improvements to the transportation system, the state now faces potential cuts to transportation investment due to decreased state revenues.
This has reduced appropriations to ODOT and other state agencies by seven percent during the current fiscal year (FY2016). These reductions will cut $30.8 million from ODOT’s budget for future construction projects in the Eight-year Plan. Prior to the latest budget cut due to reduced state general revenue, ODOT had experienced $190 million in budget reductions since FY 2010. Despite the progress made in recent years, Oklahoma still has approximately $11 billion in backlogged bridge and roadway projects.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow. And for every $1 million spent on urban highway or intermodal expansion, an average of 7.2 local, long-term jobs were created and an additional 4.4 jobs were created outside the local area.
“As an economic development professional, I can tell you from firsthand experience that transportation infrastructure is one of the most important factors when a company is determining whether to locate in a community,” said Roy Williams, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber president and CEO. “Transportation infrastructure truly is the veins and arteries of a healthy community’s economic success and quality of life.”
The TRIP report finds that 81 percent of major roads in the Oklahoma City urban area are in poor or mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $917 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
Traffic congestion in the Oklahoma City urban area is worsening, causing 49 hours of delay a year for the average motorist and costing each driver $1,110 annually in lost time and wasted fuel.
A total of 23 percent of Oklahoma’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Sixteen percent of Oklahoma’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional seven 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. In the Oklahoma City urban area, ten percent of bridges are structurally deficient and 16 percent are functionally obsolete.
Increased state funding has allowed the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to reduce the number of structurally deficient state-maintained bridges from an all-time high of 1,168 bridges in 2004 to 339 at the end of 2015. If funding remains stable, ODOT is on track to have one percent or fewer of all state-maintained bridges rated structurally deficient by the end of the decade.
Traffic crashes in Oklahoma claimed the lives of 3,419 people between 2010 and 2014. Oklahoma’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.40 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel significantly higher than the national average of 1.08 and is the eleventh highest in the nation. The state’s rural roads have a traffic fatality rate that is nearly three-and-a-half times higher than the rate on all other roads in the state (2.67 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel versus 0.77).
The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in Oklahoma. Signed into law in December 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, provides modest increases in federal highway and transit spending, allows states greater long-term funding certainty and streamlines the federal project approval process. But the FAST Act does not provide adequate funding to meet the nation’s need for highway and transit improvements and does not include a long-term and sustainable funding source.
“The progress made by ODOT in recent years will slip away if greater funding is not made available at the local, state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Additional transportation investment will improve the condition and efficiency of Oklahoma’s transportation system while stimulating economic growth, creating jobs and leaving a lasting asset for future generations.”