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Report: Utah's Failing Roads Cost Each Driver Up to $640 a Year

Lack of infrastructure investment costing drivers hundreds in additional maintenance. Courtesy: Utah Department of Transportation
Lack of infrastructure investment costing drivers hundreds in additional maintenance. Courtesy: Utah Department of Transportation
August 5, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - Failing roads across the Wasatch Front can cost each driver up to $640 in extra vehicle repair and maintenance expense each year, according to a report from TRIP, a transportation research group.

Abby Albrecht, executive director of the Utah Transportation Coalition, said the report shows that nearly a third of urban roadways in the region are described as being in "poor" condition. She said tire damage from potholes, glass damage from rocks and extra fuel expense from congestion are major problems with a far-reaching economic impact.

"If we don't have good, workable transportation infrastructure," she said, "it slows down the economy, it slows the goods and services, it's people sitting in commutes longer, and it just adds onto the deficit of our economy."

Albrecht said a big part of the problem is that cities and counties struggle to maintain crumbling infrastructure with limited funding provided through the gas tax via the state and federal governments. On the bright side, she said, Utah lawmakers passed legislation this year that allows local governments to put a transportation-specific tax increase proposal on the election ballot.

She said the tax increase, which would amount to a portion of a percentage point, would cost the average Utahn about an extra $40 per year, but would provide major public infrastructure improvements.

"It will be dedicated to municipalities' transportation needs," she said, "so, preservation and maintenance of existing roadways, sidewalks and safety signals, improvements to bus service."

Albrecht said the sales-tax increase would provide tens of millions of dollars in new money each year - enough to make meaningful infrastructure improvements. According to the TRIP report, bad roads in Los Angeles and San Francisco cost drivers more than $1,000 a year in extra expenses.

Information on the Utah Transportation Coalition is online at utahtransportation.org. The TRIP report is at tripnet.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT