Poorly maintained highways and major roads cost Californians an extra $44 billion each year in repairs, accidents and time and fuel burned in traffic, according to a report issued Thursday by a transportation advocacy group.
The formula estimating the cost is far from exact, and the report's authors hope it will spur greater transportation spending.
Still, the Washington-based research and advocacy group TRIP took a reasonable stab at putting a price tag on the problem. The nonprofit group is funded among others by highway construction businesses and labor unions.
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Its report looked at five major urban areas and calculated the average annual cost to drivers attributable to "roads that are deteriorated, congested and lacking some desirable safety features.''
Los Angeles rated worst both for additional costs for repairs and traffic; factoring in the cost of accidents, the report estimated that Angelenos pay an extra $2,500 each year. Not far behind was San Francisco-Oakland at $2,200 and San Jose ($1,700).
No state has more licensed drivers than the approximately 24 million in California. Overall, vehicles here traveled about 326 billion miles in 2012.
The California Department of Transportation responded to the report's findings by acknowledging problems with rough roads, but saying the state's "pavement is the healthiest it's been in ten years'' thanks partly to $665 million it spent in fiscal year 2014 to maintain and preserve 2,700 lane miles. Still, that is barely a dent in the estimated $8.2 billion per year needed to fix aging state highways.
"Every dollar invested in maintenance saves taxpayers from future repairs that are 10 times more expensive,'' Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said. "Stable transportation funding would allow us to continue to provide safe and sustainable transportation infrastructure that enhances California's economy and livability.''
That was a reference to federal highway funding, which has dwindled to levels so low that Congress recently had to extend funding on an emergency basis until lawmakers figure out a more permanent fix.