Scranton area roads are among nation’s most deteriorated

NEPA's bumpy roads cost drivers nearly $540 each year in additional vehicle operating costs
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Photo: NE PA Business Journal, License: N/A

The Scranton urban area ranks 17th among mid-sized cities (250,000-500,000) in the percentage of roads in poor condition and 18th in the annual cost to motorists of driving on rough roads.

Thirty-two percent of roads in the Scranton urban area are in poor condition, costing area drivers $539 each year in additional vehicle operating costs (VOC). The Scranton urban area ranks 17th among mid-sized cities (250,000-500,000) in the percentage of roads in poor condition and 18th in the annual cost to motorists of driving on rough roads. Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation and increasing needed maintenance, fuel consumption and tire wear.

These findings were released Oct. 3 by TRIP, a national transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. The report, “Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother,” examines urban pavement conditions, transportation funding and economic development. Additional pavement condition and vehicle operating costs for urban areas with populations of 250,000 or greater can be found in the full report and appendices. The chart below contains rankings for mid-sized cities between 250,000 and 500,000 population.

In 2011 more than one-quarter (27 percent) of the nation's major urban roads– Interstates, freeways and other arterial routes – had pavements that were in substandard condition and provided an unacceptably rough ride to motorists, costing the average urban driver $377 annually. The nationwide annual cost of driving on deteriorated roads totals $80 billion.

Pavement conditions are likely to worsen under current funding by all levels of government. Through 2032, the U.S. faces a $156 billion shortfall in the amount needed to maintain roadways in their current condition, a $374 billion shortfall to make modest improvements in pavement conditions and a $670 billion shortfall to make significant improvements to roadway conditions.

A 2010 U.S. Department of Transportation report found that the nation would need to increase annual funding for road and highway improvements by 21 percent to keep them in their current condition, by 51 percent to make a modest improvement in overall conditions and by 91 percent to make significant improvement to their condition.

Driving on rough roads is more than just a nuisance for drivers. The deterioration of our transportation system impedes economic growth and robs drivers of hundreds of dollars each year. Without a significant boost in transportation funding at the federal, state and local level, conditions will continue to deteriorate, drivers will continue to pay the price, and our economy will suffer,” said Tom Lawson, president of the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA).

Federal dollars are a key source of transportation funding in Pennsylvania. But the lack of adequate funding beyond the expiration of MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) federal surface transportation legislation on September 30, 2014, threatens the future condition and performance of the nation’s roads and highways. In the fall of 2014, nationwide federal funding for highways is expected to be cut back by almost 100 percent from the current $40 billion investment level unless additional revenues are provided to the federal Highway Trust Fund. This is due to a cash shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund as projected by the Congressional Budget Office. Under this scenario, federal funding for highway and transit improvements in Pennsylvania is estimated to be cut by $1.9 billion for the federal fiscal year starting October 1, 2014, unless Congress provides additional transportation revenues.

Making improvements to the transportation system can have a significant economic impact. A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.

With state and local governments struggling to fund needed road repairs and with federal surface transportation funding set to be slashed next year, road conditions are projected to get even worse,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Congress could reduce the extra costs borne by motorists driving on rough roads by approving funding that will support a federal transportation program that improves road conditions on the nation’s major roads and highways.”

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