New research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that the wear and tear on our highway system has greater costs than were previously understood, implying a need for more transportation infrastructure investment, especially for road maintenance.
“The rougher the roads are, there are substantial costs in terms of higher vehicle operating costs, longer travel times and less traffic safety,” said Margaret Bock, professor of economics at Goucher College and co-author of the research paper.
In their paper, Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Pavement Damage Reduces Traffic Safety and Speed, Bock and her co-authors find that even modest road damage slows average vehicle speeds by 11%, leading to longer commutes and slower movement of goods. Poorly maintained roads also increase the likelihood of crashes, reducing safety for all.
The researchers studied California’s highway system because it is one of the largest and most geographically diverse in the nation. The state contains almost 400,000 road miles across a variety of climates, the second most expansive system in the nation (behind only Texas.)
“Our estimates are a lot larger than previous estimates. We really need to be investing in fixing the roads,” notes Bock.
David King, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University, agrees with the conclusion that the country should have a fix-it-first mentality when it comes to highway spending.
As we await progress on federal support via the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) continues to meaningfully fund critical repair projects across the state — heavily supported by funding from Senate Bill (SB) 1, The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, which provides $5 billion in transportation funding annually.