State News

Study: Roads cost Triangle drivers $1,350 a year

Posted March 23, 2010

— A national transportation group says drivers in North Carolina's largest urban areas lose $1,350 a year because of lost time and gasoline costs sitting in traffic and because of bumpy pavement or poor safety conditions.

The nonprofit group TRIP released a report Tuesday that uses federal data to show what inadequate roads and bridges mean for drivers in the Triangle, the Triad and Charlotte.

Light highway traffic, no traffic congestion DOT officials says new revenue streams needed

The group says the costs for drivers in Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte are essentially the same, while drivers in Greensboro and Winston-Salem on average face $900 in expenses because there's less congestion in the Triad. Statewide, poor pavement, traffic congestion and other highway problems cost North Carolina drivers $5.7 billion a year, according to the report.

"Our highways and bridges were once the envy of the entire country – not so much anymore," said Marc Finlayson, co-chairman of the North Carolina transportation advocacy group NC Go!

The TRIP report projects a $65 billion shortfall over the next 20 years to adequately plan, design, build and maintain the state’s transportation system. Forty-five percent of Triangle roads are in poor or mediocre condition, according to the report.

"The consequences of not investing in transportation infrastructure are dire," Finlayson said, citing the August 2007 collapse of an interstate bridge in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people and injured scores more.

"Eventually, transportation infrastructure will rise to the surface. I don't want it to rise to the surface because we have a catastrophe," he said  "What we need to do is recognize that we've got a problem (and) address it now before it becomes worse than we care to deal with. I'm confident we will."

In 2008, the traffic fatality rate in North Carolina was higher than the national average, according to the TRIP report. Roadway design was a leading contributing factor in many of the fatal wrecks.

TRIP found that nearly 30 percent of the state's bridges show significant deterioration or don't meet current design standards. State Department of Transportation engineers estimate that 400 bridges a year need to be replaced, but the department has funding for slightly more than 100 projects per year.

"Bottom line – our needs in North Carolina are growing, (but) our revenue stream is not," Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said. "It's critically important we find new and more stable sources of funding."

The study could help state transportation boosters persuade the legislature to approve new ways to raise road construction funds.

Ideas to fund more highway and bridge maintenance include expanding the use of toll roads, increasing the state gas tax and creating a system that charges drivers for the number of miles they drive. Pushing some of the responsibility for road maintenance to the local level is also part of the discussion.

"For local governments, that'll be a hard situation for them to handle," said Paul Meyer, chief legislative counsel for the North Carolina League of Municipalities.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • pbjbeach Mar 26, 2010

    If this governor an all future governors would really put a stop to the waste fraud an abuse of spending as it relates to nc highway projects there would be plenty of funding in this state with the current taxes that are being sent to raleigh everyday.Oh yes they also need to stop the practice of allowing the ncdot to pay contractors twice for doing the same work first in the monthly estimates an then again for fixing of screwed up bad non speceficiation work that was allowed to be done in the original contracting of a construction project when contractors are intinally failing to build roadways according to the state speceficiations ,proposals, plans , an special provisions as stated in the contracting contracts to start with thank you

  • rick_slick Mar 24, 2010

    thanks yankees.

  • Bendal1 Mar 24, 2010

    Oh, and NCcarguy,

    Again, NEPA calls the shots on all environmental and historical issues. That's not a DOT issue, that's a Federal issue; I've danced to that tune many times on my projects, but I put it down as how we do business. Again, do you want to go back to the days when such 'inconveniences' were ignored?

  • Bendal1 Mar 24, 2010


    Well, I guess I'm glad I don't have to worry that "you'll get your way", right? Oh, and design costs are typically about 10% or less of the overall cost of a project; tell me again how that will make a huge difference?

    Sounds like your company didn't do all the fact checking it needed early on in the design process if it was late in the design when you realized you had to avoid a tree. And the ramp had to be moved "hundreds of yards" for a TREE?

    Given your hatred of DOT, it makes me wonder just how good a job you really do for your client. Your badmouthing DOT when they're paying your bills seems to me to be rather...unethical.

  • seankelly15 Mar 24, 2010

    NCcarguy - What project did you add 1 million dollars to, to go around a tree? And was this tree expense shared with the house expense? I am confused.

    As for your final comment, as I have said to thinkchick, please give it a rest. If you need by-pass surgery then you will get it. But, if you think that you will need by-pass surgery, I would suggest losing the excess weight that you have, stop smoking cigarettes, exercise, reduce fat intake, take a statin or plavix or effient saving me the cost of yuor by-pass.

  • seankelly15 Mar 24, 2010

    ThinkChick - "If the state taxes were not so onerous, local governments and businesses could possibly use taxes and other incentives to do this on their own - and create local jobs as well." Are you suggesting that public streets and roads should be improved by private groups?

    "They've taken away my right to see my doctor and follow his plans...." Please give it a rest. No one has taken away your right to see your own doctor and follow his plans.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Mar 24, 2010

    and Bendal1....again you make my point. "Cost that much" really??? how much is not "that much"? and how much does the NEPA process cost us? you are familiar with that process arent' YOU? I mean, you obviously work there, which I have found not really meaning all that much when it comes to knowledge about the process.

    So how is it a "BAD DESIGN" when you have tight restrictions to tie into a certain area, only to find in the latter stages of the process a TREE in the way that the local tree huggers are determined to save, so you re-route the ramp hundreds of yards away? or they find a woodpecker nest on the alignment so the nearest alternative adds about 300' of tall bridge?

    Really? you want to keep insulting my intelligence? you're just like all the other liberals! when you can't make a point you just start calling names until something sticks....typical DOT employee.

    If I get my way, we'll cut DOT in about 1/2 and people like you will have to work for a company under tight deadl

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 24, 2010

    Great food for thought, Bendal1. :-)

  • Bendal1 Mar 24, 2010


    Yes, the equity formula for spreading construction money across all 14 divisions is causing a lot of problems, especially when expensive projects tie up construction money for years while they address environmental issues, and easier to build projects have to wait in other divisions because there's no money for them.

    Good luck with changing that, though. There are a LOT more rural legislators than urban ones, and they like the equity formula just the way it currently is. Funny thing, most of those rural legislators are Republican, too.

  • Bendal1 Mar 24, 2010


    If it cost $1 million to avoid a tree or a house, then IMO you did a bad job in redesigning that project. I've redesigned projects to avoid all sorts of things, from stores to wetlands to historic sites and endangered species, and I unless they were really large areas I can't say any of them cost that much.

    Those regulations you want changed are Federal requirements, as set down by NEPA. You do understand what NEPA is, right? The state regulations are similar but they just copy what the Federal rules say.

    What do you want? A return to pre-NEPA, where the state could bulldoze straight lines through whatever is in the way? I know there are people who would love to see that; are you one of them?

    Oh and you didn't answer my earlier question; where's the money going to come from to keep up with the growth and deterioration of the infrastructure? All I've seen from you is "do more with less". And PEF's aren't the answer; design costs are a tiny fraction of the overall