Updated at 1:15 p.m.
DFW AIRPORT – Crumbling roads are costing the typical North Texas driver $1,543 annually, according to a report released Tuesday.
Roads will continue to deteriorate unless new funding sources are found to expand the state’s ability to maintain existing highways, as well as build new roads to accommodate a growing population, according to the report titled “Future Mobility in Texas.”
The report by a Washington research organization known as The Road Information Report (TRIP) was released simultaneously in several Texas cities. It estimates that inadequate roads are costing the state $23.2 billion a year.
The transportation system is the backbone of economic progress in Texas, lead researcher Frank Moretti said during a news conference at Dallas Fort Worth Airport’s administration building.
“It’s a backbone that is increasingly deadening under the demands of increased traffic and a lack of funding,” Moretti said.
The cost to drivers is calculated using a formula that includes wear and tear on automobiles, repairs caused by car crashes and the loss of productivity due to time stuck in traffic, according to the report.
The report addressed not only the out-of-pocket costs, but also the impact on safety. About a third of all fatalities are caused by road deficiencies such as poor lane markings, inadequate shoulders or bad lighting, he said.
About 18 percent of Texas roads are in poor condition, meaning motorists must endure a bumpy ride, and another 27 percent of roads are in mediocre condition, the report states. Those percentages will only get worse, unless state and federal officials find new funding sources, said Lawrence Olsen, executive vice president of Texas Good Roads, an Austin group that advocates for transportation funding.
Olsen and others are looking at the long-term picture - how to continue building quality highways and streets for future Texans. It’s a tall task, with the state’s population of about 25.7 million people today expected to increase to 37.3 million by 2030, according to a Census Bureau estimate.
Also, Olsen said, motorists today may be lured into a false sense of security when they view the Texas roadscape. In areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth, drivers may see billions of dollars worth of road work under way - for example, the DFW Connector in Grapevine, or LBJ Managed Lanes in Dallas - and incorrectly assume the state has the revenue it needs to continue meeting transportation needs.
But in reality, Olsen said, many big-dollar projects currently underway are backed by federal stimulus funding, or one form or another of state debt - and those aren’t reliable future funding sources. The state has nearly maxed out its debt capacity, he said.
“The state is pretty close to the edge if its capacity of bonds that can be utilized, especially bonds tied to general revenue,” Olsen said.
The state’s motor fuels tax - 20 cents per gallon for gasoline - hasn’t been raised since 1991 - and, he said, the purchasing power of 20 pennies back then will only buy you about 8 cents worth of road work today.
Bridges also are sorely in need of repair, with 18 percent of Texas’ structures showing significant deterioration or insufficient design standards, according to the report.
Data in the report was provided by the Federal Highway Administration, which collects information about pavement quality annually form the Texas Department of Transportation and similar agencies in other states.
In Texas, the report noted that a Texas A&M Transportation Institute study concluded that a concerted effort by state officials to improve safety on rural roads by adding barriers and other features likely saved 133 lives in a three-year period. The institute estimates that another 880 lives will be saved over 20 years.
“Transportation is more than just driving on Texas’ roads and bridges or using public transit,” the report states. “It’s about receiving packages in a timely manner, easily grabbing groceries on the way home or safely traveling across the state.”