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Report: Poor roads costing some Utah drivers $600 yearly

Report: Poor roads costing some Utah drivers $600 yearly

(Ravell Call/Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utah roads are costing drivers hundreds of dollars a year in vehicle maintenance, a new report states.

According to "Bumpy Roads Ahead: America's Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother," more than a quarter of the nation's major urban roadways, highways and streets that are the main routes for commuters and commerce are in poor condition.

The report was released by TRIP, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on transportation issues.

The study examined "the condition of the nation's major urban roads, including pavement condition data for the most populated urban areas, recent trends in travel, the latest developments in repairing roads and building them to last longer, as well as the funding levels needed to adequately address deteriorating roadways."

In Utah, driving on deteriorated urban roads costs some motorists more than $600 annually, according to the data collected on large metros with populations of at least 500,000 residents and midsize urban areas with populations between 250,000 and 500,000. The report calculated the additional costs passed on to drivers due to travel on poorly maintained roads.

The report showed that poor roads are costing drivers in the Salt Lake metro area $640 in added fuel consumption, tire wear and extra maintenance. The area also has the state's highest percentage of poor- and mediocre-rated roads.

Workers repair the road at 400 North between University Avenue and 500 West in Provo, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (Photo: Ravell Call/Deseret News)
Workers repair the road at 400 North between University Avenue and 500 West in Provo, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (Photo: Ravell Call/Deseret News)

The Provo-Orem area has roads that rank among the worst among the nation's medium-size urban areas, costing drivers an extra $583 a year.

The report comes as the U.S. Senate passed a $350 billion, long-term transportation bill Thursday on a 65-34 vote with bipartisan support. House lawmakers, however, already have dispersed for their August recess.

The bill calls for changes to highway, transit, railroad and auto safety programs, but its sponsors were only able to find enough money to pay for the first three years of the six-year bill.

The bill also attempts to speed up environmental reviews of construction projects and encourages states to impose user fees on electric vehicles because they use roadways but don't contribute to federal gas tax revenues. It also sets aside money for major projects and directs highway aid to major freight transportation corridors.

During the 2015 Legislature, state lawmakers passed HB362, which reformed the state's gas tax to support maintenance and preservation of state highways and freeways, but not local roads. Many civic leaders have expressed concerns about insufficient funding for local road maintenance.

The report also found that every dollar invested in preventative road maintenance saves $10 to $25 in costly future rehabilitation work, said Abby Albrecht, director of the Utah Transportation Coalition.

The organization is a group of business and civic leaders advocating specifically for transportation infrastructure investment to protect Utah's environment, improve the economy and preserve the quality of life.

"Our cities and county officials have been grappling with deteriorating roads and funding," Albrecht said. "Now we have hard data on just how much of an impact this has on an average Utahn. The costs of doing nothing in this case are far higher for the average Utah family than the proposed voter-approved local option, which would only cost a penny for every $4."


If the voters approve it, that should provide much of the funding necessary for local communities to improve the quality of their roads. Nobody likes a tax increase, but this one goes directly to pay for those (roadway) assets, and if we don't maintain them, they will be more costly in the future.

–Rep. Johnny Anderson (R-Taylorsville)


HB362 authorizes a county to impose a local-option sales and use tax of 0.25 percent for roads and public transit. The bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, noted that voters must first endorse the proposed tax at the ballot box.

"If the voters approve it, that should provide much of the funding necessary for local communities to improve the quality of their roads," Anderson said. "Nobody likes a tax increase, but this one goes directly to pay for those (roadway) assets, and if we don't maintain them, they will be more costly in the future."

The Salt Lake County Council will address the issue during its meeting Tuesday. If placed on the ballot and backed by voters, the measure could generate nearly $54 million for transportation and infrastructure needs, Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton said.

Though she has not decided whether to favor the increase just yet, Newton acknowledged that roads cost more taxpayer dollars when they are not properly maintained.

"Good transportation infrastructure directly impacts economic development and helps us maintain a healthy economy for years to come, which ultimately saves taxpayer dollars," she said. "Whether or not these things can be funded through more conservative government spending, or if we need to increase the sales tax to pay for these things, is what (we) hope to figure out in the coming weeks and months."

Other Wasatch Front counties are contemplating similar initiatives, but ultimately it will be up to voters to determine if they want to pay to improve local driving conditions and reduce the long-term environmental impacts, Albrecht said.

"We want to make sure that roads are maintained, our air quality is clean, traffic congestion is low," she said, "and the only way we're doing to do that is to continue to invest."

Contributing: The Associated Press

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