The Road Information Program (TRIP) released its latest state report, this one on the state of roads and bridges in Alabama. “As Alabama works to build and enhance a thriving, growing and dynamic state, it will be critical that it is able to address the state’s most significant transportation issues by providing a 21st century network of roads, highways, bridges and transit that can accommodate the mobility demands of a modern society,” the report stated.
Alabama will need to modernize its surface transportation system by improving the physical condition of its transportation network and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient, safe and reliable mobility for residents, visitors and businesses. Making needed improvements to the state’s roads, highways, bridges and transit systems could provide a significant boost to the economy by creating jobs in the short term and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access.
While the modest funding increase provided by the FAST Act will be helpful, numerous projects to improve the condition and expand the capacity of Alabama’s roads, highways, bridges and transit systems will not be able to proceed without a substantial boost in state or local transportation funding. If Alabama is unable to complete needed transportation projects it will hamper the state’s ability to improve the condition and efficiency of its transportation system or enhance economic development opportunities and quality of life.
TRIP has calculated the additional cost to motorists of driving on roads in poor, mediocre or fair condition. When roads are in poor, mediocre or fair condition – which may include potholes, rutting or rough surfaces – the cost to operate and maintain a vehicle increases. These additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional vehicle repair costs, increased fuel consumption and increased tire wear.
TRIP estimates that additional VOC borne by Alabama motorists as a result of deteriorated road conditions is $1.5 billion annually, or $382 per driver. The costs are typically higher in the state’s largest urban areas.
Eight percent of Alabama’s locally and state maintained bridges are rated as structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of 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. Deteriorated bridges can have a significant impact on daily life. Restrictions on vehicle weight may cause many vehicles – especially emergency vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses and farm equipment – to use alternate routes to avoid posted bridges. Redirected trips also lengthen travel time, waste fuel and reduce the efficiency of the local economy.
The service life of bridges can be extended by performing routine maintenance such as resurfacing decks, painting surfaces, insuring that a facility has good drainage and replacing deteriorating components. But, most bridges will eventually require more costly reconstruction or major rehabilitation to remain operable.
The report also states that a total of 4,280 people were killed in Alabama traffic crashes from 2011 to 2015, an average of 856 fatalities per year. It is estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.