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California's Bumpy Roads Put State At Top of Worst Roads List . . . Again

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--California motorists are footing the bill as five of the states metropolitan regions rank in the Top Ten urban areas with the roughest pavements in the nation.

In a report released today, TRIP, a national transportation research group, found that among large urban regions (500,000+ population), the areas with the greatest share of major roads and highways with pavements in poor condition are: San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, Kansas City, New Orleans (pre-Katrina), San Diego, Sacramento, St. Louis, Omaha and New York City.

TRIP found that a quarter of the nations major metropolitan roads interstates, freeways and other critical local routes have pavements in poor condition, resulting in rough rides. By contrast, in California cities on the top 10 list, one-half to two-thirds of pavements are rated poor.

These poor roads create additional vehicle operating costs (accelerated vehicle deterioration, additional maintenance needs and increased fuel consumption). In Californias biggest urban areas, poor roads cost the average motorist more than $600 a year, and approximately $700 a year in the San Jose and Los Angeles areas. That compares with a $383 national average. Five California urban areas ranked in the top six costliest: San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, Kansas City, San Diego, Sacramento, New Orleans (pre-Katrina), Oklahoma City, Omaha and St. Louis.

Our failure to keep up our transportation system has hurt motorists directly in the pocketbook and weakened our economy, says Mark Watts, executive director of Transportation California, the states leading education and advocacy group for transportation. It is critical that we follow through on the steps that have been taken over the past two years to overcome decades of neglect. The longer we wait, the more costly it will be to shape up our roads.

Watts says the State has made considerable strides by fully funding Proposition 42 (the sales tax on gasoline, which had previously been diverted to the General Fund) in the last two State budgets, and now by putting two measures on the November ballot to significantly improve roads and bridges.

California has begun to overcome the slumlord mentality that has allowed the disintegration of our transportation infrastructure, Watts says. Proposition 1A, which directs a substantial amount of funding to local streets and roads, would provide better protection so that the sales tax on gasoline would be harder to divert away from transportation. Proposition 1B would allow the state to issue bonds for $19.9 billion in transportation programs over the next 10 years.

According to the TRIP report, the continuing increase in urban traffic is putting significant wear and tear on the nations urban roads. Overall travel on urban roads increased by 38 percent from 1990 to 2004; urban travel by large commercial trucks grew at an even faster rate, increasing by 51 percent from 1990 to 2004. Large trucks place significant stress on road surfaces. Overall vehicle travel is expected to increase by approximately 33 percent by the year 2020 and the level of heavy truck travel nationally is projected to increase by approximately 39 percent by 2020.

With current funding, TRIP says pavement conditions are likely to worsen. A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report to Congress indicates that through 2022 the nation will fall short of the cost of maintaining current urban pavement conditions by $76 billion and will fall short of making significant repairs by $138 billion. Maintaining urban roads in their current condition would require increasing current funding for road repairs by 40 percent and it would take a 73 percent increase to significantly improve urban pavement conditions.

Smoother roads are ahead for us in California if we continue in the direction with full Proposition 42 funding, renewed investment in maintenance and rehabilitation, and focused projects to address the states vigorous growth in goods movement and traffic congestion both of which exact a toll on our roads, Watts predicts.