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Tue March 25, 2014
North Carolina Motorists Bear the Cost of Deficient Roadways
North Carolina's deteriorating road system is costing drivers billions of dollars.
TRIP is a national transportation group based in Washington, D.C. According to its latest report, North Carolina's motorists annually spend about $6.5 billion for car repairs because of decaying roads and bridges, and lost time on the job because of traffic congestion and auto fatalities.
Frank Rocky Moretti is the Director of Policy and Research for TRIP. He says ultimately, motorists pay the cost of not having a good transportation system. “In the Triad, we estimate the cost to motorist is $1,069 annually in driving on rough roads, the cost of delays caused by traffic and the cost of serious crashes.” According to this report, 36 percent of major roads in the Triad area are in either poor or mediocre condition, costing the average motorist $315 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, repair costs, tire wear, increased fuel consumption and accelerated vehicle depreciation. This report also calculates each year, Triad motorists lose about 22 hours in potential work time because they’re stuck in traffic.
Gayle Anderson is the President and CEO of the Greater Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. She says having an unstable infrastructure can negatively impact economic development in the state and in the Triad. “A lot of people don’t understand that if companies can’t move their goods and services, if they’re employees are delayed in getting to work that these companies are not going to look to establish here or if they are already in our area, to expand. They look at those factors because it’s part of the cost of doing business.” Anderson also says the TRIP report strongly validates the Chamber's emphasis on building I-74 as quickly as possible and completing the Business 40 project. This is the eastern leg of the highly disputed Winston-Salem Northern Beltway.
The report also reviewed the condition of North Carolina’s bridges. “Thirty percent of North Carolina’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards," says Moretti. "Twelve percent are structurally deficient.” According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the state has more than 2,000 bridges that fall into this category. In the past two years, the state has invested about $450 million replacing, repairing and preserving 1,000 bridges. More than a quarter of this money comes from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. But future projects may be delayed or postponed. According to Moretti, as early as this summer, the fund’s balance is expected to drop below $1 billion. Thus, North Carolina and other states will get less federal support.
The most disturbing figure in the TRIP report pertains to traffic fatalities. According to Moretti, North Carolina’s ranks 10% higher than the national average. “Between 2008-2012, 6,585 people were killed in traffic accidents," says Moretti. "On rural roads, the traffic fatality rate is four times higher than on other roads.” Although he says adding safety features, such as cable barriers on the interstate, is helping to save some lives.
Anderson believes this report supports the idea for a light rail system, but that neither the Triad nor the state will develop one until there’s a greater demand by motorists. “As long as people in this community are tied to using individual cars, it’s really hard to see how we’ll develop that critical mass. As we get more people moving into the community, increased road congestion it becomes more expensive to park, then people will demand a mass transit system and we'll get one," explains Anderson. "But as we are acquire land, we ought to be thinking about acquiring enough in major corridors, so mass transit can be accommodated.” Currently, the Triad has about 1.5 million residents and Anderson estimates that population will increase 20 percent-30 percent over the next ten years.
TRIP worked in conjunction with the North Carolina Chamber Foundation to create this report.
Follow Kathryn Mobley @mobleywfdd