Baltimore drivers lose $1,800 a year to bad roads and congestion, report says

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Bad roads and congestion cost Baltimore-area drivers nearly $1,800 a year in lost time, vehicle repairs and wasted gas, according to a study released Thursday by TRIP, a national transportation industry group.

The report says two-thirds of the region's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition while the remaining third are in fair or good condition. A quarter of the major bridges in the state show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. TRIP obtained the information from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Drivers appeared to fare slightly better than in 2011, the last time the review was conducted. Then, the typical Baltimore motorist was losing $2,226 a year to shabby and traffic-clogged roads.

A slight improvement in road conditions and a reduction in traffic fatalities offset worsening congestion, said Frank Moretti, a spokesman for TRIP, a Washington-based nonprofit funded by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, construction firms and unions.

The timing of the report is sure to provide fodder for the General Assembly, which is struggling to find a formula to increase transportation funding by up to $700 million annually.

"We don't compare states to each other, but it's safe to say it is an issue shared by every other state," said Carolyn Bonifas Kelly, a researcher for TRIP. "The good news is, we're starting to see some states take action."

This month, Wyoming lawmakers voted to increase the state's gas tax for the first time in 15 years, by 10 cents a gallon. The Virginia General Assembly approved a five-year, $6 billion transportation plan that eliminates the gas tax in favor of an increase in car and sales taxes.

Making matters worse, Marylanders' love affair with driving is likely to grow, with vehicle miles expected to jump 20 percent by 2030, the TRIP report said.

The state's business leaders are growing frustrated by the lack of commitment by lawmakers, pointing to a recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers that warned of dire economic consequences for the Mid-Atlantic states without significant investment in transit. The region would lose 279,245 jobs and $283 billion in productivity by 2020, making it the hardest-hit region of the country, the study predicted.

"If Maryland is to remain competitive, this is the time to act," said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. "The longer one delays such revenue raising, the steeper the price to maintain transportation adequacy."

Last year, TRIP released a 40-item wish list of road and transit projects, 11 of which were in the Baltimore region and carried a price tag of $4.96 billion. At the top of the list were widening the Baltimore Beltway, making Route 295 six lanes near BWI Marshall Airport and building the city's Red Line light rail.

Unless the Transportation Trust Fund receives an infusion of cash, Maryland's business vitality and competitiveness will suffer, Fry said.

If there is a glimmer of light in the otherwise gloomy report for Baltimore-area drivers, it is this: Their suburban Washington counterparts have it worse, losing nearly $2,200 a year in time and gas.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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