WASHINGTON-Driving on roads in need of repair is a costly venture for American motorists.
A non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C., said U.S. drivers pay $41.5 billion a year in additional vehicle operating costs-or $222 per motorist-thanks to lousy roads.
The Road Information Program (TRIP) released the report April 2, explaining that in early spring bad road conditions result in the formation of potholes. The group calculated the extra costs motorists pay to drive on roads needing repair based on the condition of the nation's roads. It stated that, nationwide, 28 percent of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and need repair.
``Driving on roads in need of repair results in extra costs in areas such as additional tire wear, damage to shock absorbers and wheel alignment and extra fuel consumption,'' said William M. Wilkins, TRIP executive director. ``These extra vehicle operatings costs are `hidden taxes' that American motorists pay to drive on bad roads.''
The report, Extra vehicle operating costs: What motorists pay to drive on roads in need of repair, is based on TRIP's analysis of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data.
Founded in 1971, TRIP researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on highway transportation issues.
When roads are in poor or mediocre condition, Mr. Wilkins said, they are ``likely to have cracks in the pavement that then develop into potholes. When motorists drive over these potholes, it's going to cost them.''
TRIP's extra vehicle operating costs are calculated based on the amount of highway travel that takes place on roads in need of repair and applying factors such as the annual vehicle operating expense as calculated by the AAA, as well as government studies.
The reason that a significant percentage of roads nationwide need repair, Mr. Wilkins noted, is that state departments of transportation do not have sufficient funding available to make the needed repairs.
Although overall road conditions have improved in recent years, he said nearly three out of every 10 miles of U.S. roads need repair.
According to TRIP, a recent poll conducted by the FHWA and the National Partnership for Highway Quality found significant public support for the use of more durable materials in road resurfacing-and was cited as the top choice by motorists when asked about preferred transportation improvements to combat traffic delays.
``It's crucial to make timely repairs of good quality, since studies have shown that it costs a lot less to repair roads in fair condition than roads in poor condition,'' Mr. Wilkins said. ``Also, the use of more durable paving materials can help extend the life of road surfaces.''
While using improved technology to help make roads more durable is one method to reducing repair needs, ``states with aggressive preventive maintenance programs can intercept roadway deterioration before potholes develop,'' said Bill Ballou, president of the Foundation for Pavement Preservation. ``Preventive maintenance must be done on highways in good condition. It's like changing the oil on a vehicle to make sure that major damage does not occur.''