NEW REPORT: NY Roads & Bridges Failing

February 26, 2014 Updated Feb 26, 2014 at 6:06 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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NEW REPORT: NY Roads & Bridges Failing

February 26, 2014 Updated Feb 26, 2014 at 6:06 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) A report issued by the TRIP transportation research group says deteriorating roads and bridges are costing New Yorkers $20.3 billion dollars annually because of increased vehicle costs, congested-related delays, and traffic crashes.

Researchers from the non-profit group explained their findings during a press conference at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership in downtown Buffalo.

Using Federal and State data, the group found that over one-third of the major roads in the Buffalo urban area were in poor or mediocre condition.

And the data revealed that 1 in 6 bridges are "deficient."

The major reason for the decline is the lack of funding for proper maintenance which has resulted in the use of short-term patching instead of major reconstruction.

Concerns over Buffalo's aging and failing infrastructure has now prompted the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to organize a transportation summit for May 2nd to discuss the problem and possible solutions.

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The following is a press release issued by the TRIP transportation research group about its most recent report:
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Buffalo, NY – Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost New York motorists a total of $20.3 billion statewide annually –nearly $1,500 per driver in the Buffalo area - due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road and bridge conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in New York, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, “New York Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout New York, 45 percent of major roads and highways provide motorists with a rough ride. More than a quarter of New York bridges are in need of replacement, reconstruction or rehabilitation. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And New York’s rural non-interstate traffic fatality rate is more than two-and-a-half times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.

Driving on deficient roads costs each Buffalo area driver $1,493 per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the cost of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in New York’s largest urban areas: Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each area along with a statewide total is below.

The TRIP report finds that a total of 35 percent of major roads in the Buffalo urban area are in either poor or mediocre condition, costing the average Buffalo motorist an additional $316 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. Traffic congestion in the area is worsening, causing 33 annual hours of delay for the average Buffalo motorist.

“Funding for the highway system that helps make America a mobile and prosperous nation is about to run dry. Later in 2014, the federal Highway Trust Fund will be officially insolvent, a fact which will hasten the well underway deterioration of our state’s roads and bridges. Despite that fact, the looming crisis has not translated into political action,” said John A. Corlett, AAA New York State’s Legislative Committee Chairman. “It is time for Congress and the Administration to lead. Transportation funding may not be a popular issue on Capitol Hill, but elected officials must demonstrate the leadership needed to rescue our transportation system from obsolescence.”

A total of 28 percent of New York’s state maintained bridges are currently in need of replacement, reconstruction or rehabilitation. A total of 17.5 percent of state-maintained bridges in the Buffalo area are in need of replacement, reconstruction or rehabilitation.

“Our ability to move people and freight efficiently throughout the Buffalo Niagara region is the key to maintaining a globally competitive economy,” said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, President and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “Roads, bridges, highways and transit are the backbone of our success. It is imperative that we not only fund the necessary maintenance of this infrastructure, but that we invest in enhancing our transportation networks as we would for any key economic development initiative.”

Traffic crashes in New York claimed the lives of 5,924 people between 2008 and 2012. New York’s traffic fatality rate of 0.91 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is lower than the national average of 1.13. The traffic fatality rate on New York’s non-Interstate rural roads was 1.79 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, more than two-and-a-half times higher than the 0.68 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on all other roads and highways in the state.

The efficiency of New York’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs.

“It’s time for Congress to do their jobs and fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund. If Congress does their job we can put our members to work and do our jobs,” said Dan McGraw, President of the New York State Conference of Operating Engineers. “Adequate funding means New Yorkers will go back to work rebuilding our poor roads and bridges. That means jobs and safer roads for Buffalo.”

The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in New York. But a lack of adequate funding of the federal program may result in a significant cut in federal funding for New York’s roads, highways and bridges. In fact, the impact of inadequate federal surface transportation revenues could be felt as early as summer of 2014, when the balance in the Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to drop below $1 billion, which will trigger delays in the federal reimbursement to New York and other states for road, highway and bridge projects, which would likely result in New York and other states delaying or postponing numerous projects. And if a lack of adequate revenue into the Federal Highway Trust Fund is not addressed by Congress, funding for highway and transit improvements in New York could be cut by $3 billion for the federal fiscal year beginning October 1, 2014.

“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Unless Congress acts this year to adequately fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund, New York is going to see its federal funding decrease dramatically starting this summer. This will result in fewer road repair projects, loss of jobs and a burden on the state’s economy.”