The Cost of Not Maintaining the Roads
Readers of this blog have seen me write before about the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) estimate that roughly $745 million in high-priority road and bridge transportation needs go unfunded each year.
But if generating an extra $745 million in revenue is what it would cost to keep our roads in good shape, what is it costing Missourians not to do so?
There are a few ways to look at this. From a road maintenance perspective, delaying needed road repairs results in paying more to fix them in the future. This is because road quality decays faster each year it is left untouched. A study from the Cornell Local Roads Program found that $1 spent to keep a road in good condition can save spending $4 to $5 in future repair costs (page 30). Other estimates put this ratio even higher at $1 now versus $5 to $15 later.
From a driver’s point of view, delaying road repairs results in drivers paying more money to take care of their cars. Roads in poor, mediocre, or fair condition present problems to drivers through potholes, rutting, or rough surface quality. The drivers, in turn, pay the price for this through additional vehicle repair costs, increased fuel consumption, and increased tire wear. MoDOT estimates that Missouri’s current road conditions cost an average driver $59 per month, and all drivers statewide $3 billion per year. While the methods for calculating these numbers may be debatable, what is not in question is that rough roads cost drivers money.
Delaying needed repairs on Missouri’s roads is a costly proposition. Kicking the can down the road may be the easiest decision, but it’s Missourians who end up paying both now and later.