March 12, 2014 in City

Spokane’s pock-marked roads hit drivers in the wallet, study finds

By The Spokesman-Review
 
By the numbers

$1,423 Amount an average Spokane driver pays a year in increased traffic-related expenses.

$6.5 billion Cost annually to motorists statewide for driving on damaged roads.

68 Percent of major roads in the Spokane urban area that are in poor or mediocre condition compared with 44 percent of roads statewide.

27 Percentage increase in total miles driven since 1990 in Washington.

18 Percentage point increase in number of state roads expected to be in poor shape by 2018, if the budget shortfall is not met.

$953 million State transportation budget shortfall through 2018.

Driving on damaged, inefficient roads costs the average Spokane driver $1,423 a year in increased maintenance, fuel, traffic accidents and time lost in traffic.

Statewide, the cost to Washington motorists was estimated at $6.5 billion annually, according to a new study published by a national transportation research group called TRIP.

The report, which was made public Tuesday, found that 68 percent of major roads in the Spokane urban area are in poor or mediocre condition compared with 44 percent of roads statewide.

While the TRIP report calls for additional transportation investments, the state Legislature is expected to walk away from a proposed transportation funding package as this year’s legislative session comes to a close this week.

A state package would likely include a gasoline tax increase of as much as 11.5 cents a gallon under a Senate proposal intended to jumpstart projects across the state, including funding for the North Spokane Corridor.

“Without a substantial boost in federal, state and local highway funding, numerous projects to improve the condition and expand the capacity of Washington roads, highways and bridges will not be able to proceed, hampering the state’s ability to improve the condition of its transportation system and enhance economic development opportunities in the state,” the report said.

Carolyn Kelley, associate director of research and communications for TRIP, said the report was compiled in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation and was not available until now for consideration by state lawmakers.

Kelly said Washington roads overall are below average in condition compared with other states.

According to the analysis, drivers in Spokane lose $619 a year for higher operating and maintenance costs, $518 in lost time waiting for traffic or using inefficient routes, and $286 a year for increased costs associated with traffic safety. Safer roads reduce costs associated with collisions.

In addition, the TRIP report found that 5 percent of Washington bridges are structurally deficient and may be posted with lower weight limits.

“Isn’t it about time we fixed our infrastructure?” said Rich Hadley, president and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated, the region’s chamber of commerce.

Population growth in Washington has resulted in more vehicles driving more miles. The total miles driven has increased 27 percent since 1990, resulting in greater wear and more congestion, the report said.

The state transportation department said that spending on maintenance, including repaving, is less than half of what the agency estimates it needs to keep state routes from breaking down. The shortfall is estimated at $953 million through 2018.

By then the number of state roads in poor condition is expected to increase from 8 percent now to 26 percent, WSDOT said.


There are 27 comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email