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Report: Poor roads, bridges costing Mass. millions

STEVE LEBLANC

More than a third of the state’s roads are fair or poor condition, costing the average Massachusetts driver an estimated $156 each year in repair costs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

That’s one finding of a new report released Monday looking at the state’s pothole-plagued roads, crumbling bridges and cash-strapped public transit systems.

The report was commissioned by a coalition of unions, business and civic groups who hope to renew a debate over the state’s transportation needs — and what they say are the new revenues needed to fix the problem.

Those revenues should include a hike in the state gas tax and expanded tolling beyond the Massachusetts Turnpike, some supporters of the report said.

“We have to really make a decision about whether or not we are going to endanger public safety and endanger our economic competitiveness or whether we are going to step up and put some more money into the system,” said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and a member of the coalition.

The study by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group The Road Information Program (TRIP) paints a sobering picture of the states’ roads, bridges and rails.

Massachusetts’ highways are among the busiest in the nation, with traffic increasing 20 percent between 1990 and 2005 and expected to jump another 20 percent by 2025, the report said.

On average, Massachusetts roads see 66 percent more traffic than the national average, placing the state fifth in the nation for daily traffic volume on major roads behind New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Hawaii.

All that wear and tear has taken a toll — both on road conditions and driver’s wallets, the report said.

Driving on roads in need of repairs in Massachusetts costs motorists an extra $718 million a year. Poor road conditions can also lead to increased accidents and traffic deaths.

On average, about 454 people die each year in car accidents in Massachusetts. Traffic accidents cost the state $6.3 billion a year, or about $988 for every resident in medical costs, lost productivity, insurance and legal costs.