April 23, 2014

Condition of Iowa roads, bridges costs Iowa drivers $1.9 billion (AUDIO)

A new report concludes Iowa’s deteriorating roads and bridges are a significant financial drag for Iowa motorists.

Carolyn Kelly is the associate research director for the Washington, D.C.-based group that released the report today.

 ”Iowa roads and bridges that are deficient, congested and that lack desirable safety features cost the state’s drivers a total of $1.9 billion each year,” Kelly said.

Pot holes, poor pavement and badly-designed roads and bridges in Iowa are causing millions of dollars worth of vehicle damage, according to Kelly. In addition, her calculation includes lost time and wasted fuel from motorists who’re stuck in traffic jams or who have to drive out of their way to avoid bad roads and bridges.

“While those costs are already startlingly high, they’ll grow even higher in the future unless the state can find a way to improve road and bridge conditions, ease traffic congestion and enhance traffic safety,” Kelly said.

According to the report, 42 percent of the state’s roads are in poor or very poor condition.

“Despite the deficiencies that the TRIP report points out, it’s important to keep in mind that these deteriorated and congested roads are not at all a reflection of the abilities or the capabilities of the state DOT or the organizations responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the transportation system,” Kelly said. “In fact, the Iowa DOT and the local municipalies are doing a tremendous job with the funding that they have available, but the reality is that the state faces a significant and growing transportation shortfall.”

Road builders and farm groups that support increasing the state gas tax joined Kelly at a statehouse news conference to tout the study’s findings.

AUDIO of news conference (mp3 runs 19 minutes)

Charlie Norris, a farmer in the Mason City area, is a member of the Iowa Farm Bureau’s board of directors. He said the state gas tax is so low, 24 Iowa counties have had to borrow money to fix roads and bridges.

“Unfortunately our deteriorating roads and bridges have become a substantial problem which impacts not just rural Iowans, but all Iowans,” Norris said.

Iowa Corn Growers Association president Bruce Rohwer of Paulina said many farmers are forced to take long detours because some roads and bridges can’t handle the traffic.

“This creates a business challenge for farmers like me in rural areas where we have to travel extra miles on Iowa’s roads with equipment and livestock,” Rohwer said.

Steve Sandquist of Johnston, president of the Associated General Contractors of Iowa, said do00 ing nothing is not an alternative.

“Everyone seems to agree that the condition fo Iowa’s highway and bridge infrastructure merits more funding,” Sandquist said.

The state’s gas tax has not been raised since 1989. Iowa DOT officials say the state is more than $215 million short of the gas tax revenue needed for highway construction and maintainance projects. According to the report released today, each driver in the Des Moines area shells out an extra $1400 a year because of poor road and bridge conditions.

The report comes from TRIP, a non-profit group financed by contributions from insurance companies and businesses involved in highway construction.