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For Immediate Release                                                      Contact: Rocky Moretti 202.262.0714 (cell)
Wednesday, March 23, 2016                                                Carolyn Bonifas Kelly 703.801.9212 (cell)
Report available at: tripnet.org                                                                      TRIP office 202.466.6706

Eds.: The report includes regional pavement condition, congestion levels, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns for the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Hattiesburg and Jackson urban areas.  Info-graphics for each area can be downloaded here.

Hattiesburg, MS – Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Mississippi motorists a total of $2.25 billion statewide annually – nearly $1,100 per driver in the Hattiesburg urban area - due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Mississippi, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, Mississippi Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Mississippi, 22 percent of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor condition and another 42 percent are in mediocre or fair condition. Twenty percent of Mississippi’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And an average of 615 people were killed annually in crashes on Mississippi’s roads from 2010 to 2014.

Driving on deficient roads costs each Hattiesburg area driver $1,080 per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculated the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, Hattiesburg and Jackson urban areas. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each area along with a statewide total is below.

The TRIP report finds that 46 percent of major roads in the Hattiesburg urban area are in poor or mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $595 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

“The TRIP report once again demonstrates the importance of investing in Mississippi’s transportation infrastructure,” said Scott Waller, executive vice president and COO of the Mississippi Economic Council. “It provides additional details regarding the enormous costs Mississippians already face, and the consequences of failing to act. More importantly, it amplifies the safety issues that exist as a result of poor road and bridge conditions and the importance of protecting our citizens.”

Traffic congestion in the Hattiesburg area is worsening, causing 13 hours of delay a year for the average motorist and costing each driver $298 annually in lost time and wasted fuel.

A total of 20 percent of Mississippi’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards.  Thirteen percent of Mississippi’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional seven percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment. In the Hattiesburg urban area, four percent of bridges are structurally deficient and 13 percent are functionally obsolete.

Traffic crashes in Mississippi claimed the lives of 3,073 people between 2010 and 2014. Mississippi’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.54 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is significantly higher than the national average of 1.08. Mississippi’s overall traffic fatality rate is the fourth highest in the nation. The state’s rural roads have a traffic fatality rate that is nearly four and a half times higher than the rate on all other roads in the state (2.58 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel versus 0.58). TRIP estimates that roadway features may be a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.

Mississippi faces a significant shortfall in funds needed to maintain and improve its transportation system. The state currently faces a backlog of $6.6 billion dollars in funds needed to address needed repairs and improvements to Mississippi’s transportation system. A recent report by the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) found that Mississippi will need $375 million annually in new revenue to address immediate transportation needs. Of the $375 million, $300 million is needed for improvements to the state-maintained system, and $75 million is needed to address the local system. The MEC report found that an additional $375 million in annual transportation investment would generate nearly 4,000 new direct and indirect jobs in the construction industry, additional state and local tax revenue of $15 million annually, and an overall annual economic benefit of more than $440 million.

The The Federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding in Mississippi. From 2009 to 2013, the federal government provided $1.24 for road improvements in Mississippi for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fuel fees. Signed into law in December 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, provides modest increases in federal highway and transit spending, allows states greater long-term funding certainty and streamlines the federal project approval process. But the FAST Act does not provide adequate funding to meet the nation’s need for highway and transit improvements and does not include a long-term and sustainable funding source.

The efficiency and condition of Mississippi’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy.  Annually, $91 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Mississippi and another $104 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Mississippi, mostly by truck.

“These conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available at the local, state and federal levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Without additional transportation funding Mississippi’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, the state will miss out on opportunities for economic growth and quality of life will suffer.”