Report: Bad Roads Cost WNY'ers $1,500/Year

ALBANY, N.Y. Congested and deteriorating roads cost the average Western New York driver about $1,500 a year in lost time, fuel costs and vehicle repairs, a report Wednesday claimed.

The cost comes from calculating commuting times, accidents, traffic congestion and the condition of New York's roads and bridges, the report from the national transportation advocacy group, TRIP, said.

The report said that in the Buffalo area, the average driver loses $1,493 each year to troubled roads.

WEB EXTRA: Check out a map of the worst potholes in WNY.

New York City area drivers lose $2,282 each year, while drivers in the Rochester area lose $1,285 annually. The average Syracuse driver loses $1,303 each year, the report claimed.

"New York must improve its system of roads, highways and bridges to foster economic growth and keep businesses in the state," the report said.

New York has long struggled with funding for its deteriorating roads and bridges. A series by Gannett's Albany Bureau in 2011 showed that 36 percent of the state's 17,300 bridges are in need of repair.

The state Comptroller's Office has estimated New York needs $250 billion for its transportation, sewer and water systems over the next 20 years. About $80 billion is unfunded.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012 announced that New York would invest $1.2 billion to expedite road and bridge repairs through an infrastructure bank. But the state's efforts have been derailed, in part, because major storms in recent years destroyed infrastructure in parts of the New York City area and Southern Tier.

New York is also building a $3.9 billion bridge over the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties to replace the existing Tappan Zee Bridge.

The TRIP report found that 45 percent of New York's locally and state-maintained major roads are either in poor or mediocre condition.

In the Buffalo area, 35 percent of its roads needed repair. It was 74 percent in the New York City area; 34 percent in the Rochester area and 42 percent in the Syracuse area.

The report only looked at the major metropolitan areas in the state.

The report said that New Yorkers are spending more times in their cars. Vehicle miles of travel in New York increased 20 percent from 1990 to 2012. The travel time is expected to increase another 15 percent by 2030, the report said.

Transportation advocates in New York warned that a federal Highway Trust Fund will be insolvent this year if Congress doesn't take action.

"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," said John Corlett, legislative director for AAA in New York.

The report said that between 2008 and 2012, 5,924 people were killed in traffic crashes in New York, an average of 1,185 fatalities per year. The rate was 0.91 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2012, which was lower than the national average of 1.13.

The report was released on the same day President Obama proposed a $302 billion transportation bill.

Congressman Brian Higgins (D-26th District) supports the plan.

"Investing in our infrastructure has historically been a non-partisan issue and is something we should embrace and advance as a national priority," Higgins said in a statement.

His Republican colleague, Representative Chris Collins (27th District) agreed that infrastructure spending is necessary. He has not come out in support of the President's specific plan.

"Building and maintaining infrastructure is one of government's most basic and appropriate functions," Collins said in a statement. "Unfortunately, Washington has kicked the can down the road and failed to prioritize our spending on critical needs, like infrastructure."

Collins said Washington must "work together" between now and October, when the current highway reauthorization bill expires. Otherwise, the Federal Highway Trust Fund will run out of money.


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