Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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

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.