Motorists in New Mexico are paying more in costs related to road congestion each year than the state Department of Transportation says it needs in added funding to fix the infrastructure, according to a new report from the TRIP national research group.
"Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost New Mexico drivers $690 million each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel," TRIP said.
Meanwhile, it said the NMDOT has a nearly $384 million construction and maintenance budget in the 2018 fiscal year but estimates a $506 million shortfall to fund needed projects.
That agency, the report said, "has detailed nearly $2 billion in needed transportation projects throughout the state that are stalled because of a lack of funding."
But there are other costs including people killed and injured from "traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor," TRIP said, as well as higher costs for repairing and maintaining vehicles
In all, it estimated that driving on the state's roads "that are deteriorated, congested or that lack some desirable safety features costs New Mexico drivers a total of $2.4 billion each year."
State Sen. Clemente Sanchez, chairman of the Corporations and Transportation Committee, said in a Jan. 24 TRIP news release: "Our state needs to continue to invest more on our highway infrastructure to accommodate the economic growth that we anticipate in New Mexico. Needed improvements will create jobs and stimulate economic growth in our state."
The release also quotes state Rep. Roberto Gonzalez, chairman of the Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvement Committee, saying: "Driving continuously on deteriorating and unsafe roads in New Mexico is not acceptable to our residents, businesses, and thousands of tourists who visit our state. We need to find a way to address the needs of our statewide transportation infrastructure. New Mexico's economy is dependent upon a quality network of roads and bridges across our state."
TRIP said in its report that support growth in the state population and economy, the state will need to increase infrastructure investment.
"New Mexico will need to maintain and modernize its roads, highways and bridges by improving the physical condition of its transportation network and enhancing the system's ability to provide efficient, reliable and safe mobility for residents, visitors and businesses," the report said.
It also highlighted the benefits that come from such investment. "Making needed improvements to New Mexico's roads, highways, bridges and transit systems could also provide a significant boost to the state's economy by creating jobs in the short term and stimulating long-term economic growth as a result of enhanced mobility and access," it said.
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