Nation’s Crumbling Roads Put a Dent in Drivers’ Wallets

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Deteriorating highways are adding to auto maintenance costs in the U.S.

On his way home recently, Oklahoma City mapmaker Alex Sherman felt the telltale jolt of his car hitting a pothole. The hole in the road didn’t surprise him, but the $560 price tag to replace his tire and alloy wheel did.

Potholes, he said, are “one constant we’ve got around here.”

As highways and streets age and deteriorate, drivers like Mr. Sherman are shelling out more on auto repairs.

A variety of studies point to rising maintenance costs that they attribute in large part to poor road conditions. The American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, pegged the price at $324 per driver in 2013, the most recent year available, up from $275 in 2005. TRIP, a transportation research group, has determined that the average American driver spent $516 in 2013 on repairs, depreciation, additional fuel and new tires, up from $355 in 2010.

While “there’s been some improvement in overall bridge condition, overall pavement conditions are getting worse,” said Rocky Moretti, research director at TRIP, which receives funding from highway construction and manufacturing sources.

Much of the country’s road infrastructure dates from the 1950s and 1960s and is starting to show its age. Spending, however, hasn’t kept up with maintenance needs. That is partly because the price of construction materials rose rapidly in the early 2000s, outpacing government spending and making it more difficult to fill backlogs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The recession from 2007 to 2009 also led to a sharp drop in transportation spending at the state and local level that has yet to be made up.

Using an infrastructure-specific inflation measure, the CBO estimates that in real terms highway spending by federal, state and local governments —which totaled $165 billion in 2014—has fallen by 19% from its peak in 2002. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials says it would cost $740 billion to meet current demand.

Much of the cost is being transferred to individuals and businesses in the form of added vehicle repairs. “The consequence is that we’re all paying more to maintain our cars,” said Genevieve Giuliano, a transportation policy expert at the University of Southern California.

In Congress, lawmakers have passed a series of short-term funding measuring, the latest this week, as they look for a way to direct more money to the federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund’s main revenue source, the gas tax, is no longer sufficient to cover its obligations. The federal government provides slightly more than a quarter of all highway funding, much of it from the highway fund.

Lawmakers will need to find an additional $11 billion for 2016, rising to $15 billion by 2020, to keep the fund solvent, according to CBO projections.

Recent driving trends suggest the costs to motorists are only going to increase. After stalling during the last recession, the number of miles Americans drove climbed 1.7% last year. Vehicle-miles driven are up 3.4% so far this year over last, according to the Transportation Department.

Trucking companies also say they have seen road conditions hurt the bottom line. Duane Long, chairman of a small North Carolina-based trucking company called Longistics, said recently he had just received word that he would have to replace 27 tires costing $500 each due in part to road conditions.

“That’s over 10 grand, and we’re a small company. And that was just today,” he said. The costs can add up and have lasting economic consequences.

“The crumbling and decline of infrastructure does erode productivity,” said Susan Lund, an economic at the McKinsey Global Institute. “Over time, that really starts to build up.”

A 2013 McKinsey study recommended that the U.S. boost overall infrastructure spending from the current 2.6% of gross domestic product to 3.6%, an increase of between $150 and $180 billion a year. The short-term impact would add $270 billion and $320 billion to annual economic growth by 2020, the study found.

Those kinds of investments have been on the minds of Federal Reserve officials as well. Speaking to a Senate panel last month, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen cited increased capital investment “both public and private,” as a way to boost productivity and incomes.

By: David Harrison, Wall Street Journal

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South Carolina’s Rural Roads Need Congress to Act on Transportation Funding

Eric Dickey

Chairman SCFOR

Policymakers in Washington ignored key facts about our state when they recently ducked their responsibility to provide long-term, ongoing funding for South Carolina’s and all of America’s highways, bridges and public transit systems. Instead, they passed a bill to provide funding through July and barely pay for the upkeep of those systems; that’s not good enough for South Carolina.

The “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland” report released by non-profit research group TRIP, AAA, the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Travel Association found traffic crashes and fatalities on rural roads in South Carolina are significantly higher than all other roads in the state. In 2013, non-Interstate rural roads in South Carolina had the second highest rate nationally and nearly five times higher than the traffic fatality rate for all other roads in state. The report also found significant deficiencies in our rural bridges. In 2014, 12 percent of our rural bridges were rated as structurally deficient – 19th highest rate in the nation.

The federal surface transportation program – on which Congress punted – is a critical source of funding for rural roads and transportation infrastructure nationwide. The current federal surface transportation program is on life support through late July. According to the stakeholders who released the rural roads report, Congress needs to do much more.

In the view of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also leads the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition:  “Improving the transportation system will create jobs today and leave a lasting asset for future generations.”  And in AAA’s view:  “The 61 million people who live in America’s rural heartland deserve a transportation system that is safe, efficient and reliable.”

The quality of life in South Carolina’s and America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the rural economy is highly reliant on the quality of rural transportation systems – even more than urban areas. The TRIP report made practical recommendations such as the following to help bring our rural communities up to par:  modernizing and extending key routes to accommodate personal and commercial travel, improving public transit access to rural areas, and providing adequate funding for rural transportation assets.

It’s time for South Carolinians to tell Congress to take seriously the need to fix our rural roads – and our entire transportation infrastructure. No more delays, no more excuses.

Eric Dickey

Chairman

South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads

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Retail Pump Prices Mostly Slide After Tax Increase

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Six states raised their gas taxes on July 1 in order to help pay for transportation projects, but an ARTBA analysis shows actual retail prices at the pump mostly fell, in line with recent patterns. Residents of Idaho, Georgia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Vermont all saw their gas taxes raised at the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. The largest increase took place in Idaho, where the 7 cents-per-gallon hike was signed into law in late April, while Georgians saw their gas taxes go up by 6.7 cents-per-gallon. Other increases ranged from 0.35 cent-per-gallon in Vermont to 1.8 cents-per-gallon in Maryland.

The tax increases, however, did not translate to an actual penny-to-penny increase in the retail price motorists paid at the pump, keeping in line with a recent ARTBA analysis that shows only a percentage of the levy is passed on to consumers. Daily data from AAA showed the national average retail price of gasoline slid 0.5 cent from June 30 to July 1, while the largest of only two gains in state retail prices took place in Nebraska, where prices rose 0.3 cent. In Idaho, where the largest gas tax increase of 7 cents went into effect, prices rose just 0.2 cent, while prices in the other four states slumped on July 1.

On July 2, the national average retail price rose 0.4 cent, while the largest state gain in prices was 3.1 cents in Idaho, followed by 0.7 cent in Georgia. State prices in Maryland, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Vermont, however, fell from July 1 to July 2, and prices in all four states remained under prices from June 30, prior to the gas tax increases taking effect.
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Pump Shock: Study Finds Surprising Market Impact of Gas Tax Increase

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(Washington)—Increasing the gas tax does not result in a commensurate penny-to-penny increase in the retail price motorists pay at the pump, a study of the market impacts of five state gas tax increases enacted in 2013 found.

The analysis, by Dr. Alison Black, chief economist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), found, on average, the price for a gallon of regular gasoline the day after a state gas tax increase goes into effect only reflects about 22 percent of the new levy.  A month after enactment, only about a third of the levy shows up in the pump price, she says, and thereafter, it is not a significant retail price factor.

The study also found that since 2005 the average weekly price of gasoline nationally has fluctuated, on average, five cents per gallon.  Black says a modest increase in the federal gas tax rate to restore the purchasing power of the user fee—last adjusted in 1993—would likely be “lost” in the week-to-week price fluctuation experienced at the pump.

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Can New Revenues Help Repair SC Roads?

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After months of debate and stalemates, the senate failed to pass a bill this legislative session that would provide funding to repair our broken roadways.

But there’s a chance for lawmakers to provide short-term funding for this year. New revenues recently certified are at the disposal of the Senate and House of Representatives as they return to Columbia to finalize a budget for fiscal year 2015-2016.

These new revenues do not come close to sufficiently funding South Carolina’s crumbling infrastructure, but a drop in the bucket is better than no drops at all.

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SCFOR: Legislature Must Provide Stop-Gap Funding To Fix SC Roads 

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With political roadblocks killing any comprehensive infrastructure plan again this year, South Carolina must literally “fill the holes” in road funding with surplus dollars

Columbia, SC – For the second year in a row, the South Carolina Senate failed to pass any form of long-term plan to address the state’s infrastructure needs, leaving both the state’s pot holes and transportation funding holes unaddressed. The General Assembly must now appropriate as much of the $400 million in supplemental dollars as possible to critical infrastructure needs or risk further crumbling of state-owned highways and bridges, increased job losses in the construction industry and hampering economic development.

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WSPA: SC Lawmakers End Session With No Plan to Fix Roads

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This article was published by WSPA.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina lawmakers ended this year’s legislative session at 5 p.m. Thursday without passing what they said at the beginning of the session was their top priority—a plan for fixing state roads and bridges.

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A Letter to the S.C. General Assembly

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My name is Sarah Fields, I am 15-years-old and have just received my learners driving permit. As a teenager, getting a car is a big deal both financially and emotionally. However, this new permit is accompanied by added stress and financial burden of your car or health being damaged from the bad roads in South Carolina.

South Carolina roads are ranked the second most deadly roads in the country – this statistic is terrifying to a new driver. Our roads are not only unsafe, but the future economic development in S.C. is also at risk of suffering from your inaction.

It amazes me that these issues could be avoided if the General Assembly would pass a plan to fund our roads. Do the right thing for the citizens of South Carolina and fix our roads.

Respectfully,

Sarah Fields

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The State: SC roads plan stalled by Davis’ Senate filibuster

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This article appeared in The State Newspaper on May 27.

— S.C. lawmakers likely will drive home a week from Thursday without passing a plan to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges.

With five days left to pass a road-repair plan, one senator has taken over the state Senate, arguing a $85M proposal to spend money from a state savings account proposal should include money for roads.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, along with a handful of the Senate’s most anti-tax lawmakers, also want an anticipated $400 million in additional state revenues to go to pay for road repairs, likely wrecking any plan to increase the state’s 16.75 cent-a-gallon gas tax.

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South Carolina’s Roads Second Deadliest in the Nation

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Rural roads in the Palmetto State are the second deadliest in the United States, according to a report from national nonprofit transportation research group, TRIP.

Connecticut is the only state that ranked below South Carolina. The fatality rate in SC is 3.40 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2013. This statistic for rural roads is nearly five times that of other roads in our state.

With 12 percent of our rural bridges rating as structurally deficient, its no wonder that businesses, citizens and legislators are banding together to address this crucial issue.

Dozens of people stood up for SC roads in the State House lobby on Tuesday, May 19, urging lawmakers to use the days remaining in this legislative session wisely and to debate and pass a solution to fix our roads.

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