Potholes digging into cars, wallets

The potholes you ran over on the drive to work this morning won’t rattle you asmuch as what they cost in car repairs each year.

Bay Area drivers are paying an average of $761 more than they would usually spend per year on gas and trips to the mechanic, according to a national report on road conditions, because highways and city streets in San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin and Alameda counties rank among the bumpiest in the nation, second only to the Los Angeles area.

Substandard pavement not only slows you down, but also speeds up the deterioration of your car, according to TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based transportation researcher. Bay Area residents pay about $300 more in additional wear and tear costs related to bad road conditions than the national average, the study says.

In the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area, 62 percent of the most heavily traveled roads are considered in poor condition, riddled with potholes and cracked pavement, TRIP spokesman Frank Moretti said. In the San Jose area, about 60 percent of the roads are in poor condition, the report found.

“What we’ve found is that the cost to repair the roads is less than the money drivers are spending annually on car repairs,” Moretti said.

The increasing amount of traffic in urban areas, according to the report, is having a major impact on roads. Vehicle travel in the state increased 27 percent between 1990 and 2005 and is expected to increase another 25 percent by 2020.

But can cities and the state afford to smooth over Bay Area roadways?

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is projecting a $17 billion shortfall for overall repairs of Bay Area streets and roads in the next 25 years, not including state-maintained highways. The City will be short $1.3 billion and San Mateo County $1.5 billion, MTC spokesman Joe Curley said.

“We’ve got a fair amount of disintegrating roads in the Bay Area that are in need of repair and regular maintenance,” he said.

And the longer those roads are left to crumble, the more costly they become to fix down the line, Curley said.

“The rough rule of thumb is, if the road conditions become too deteriorated, it can cost up to five times as much to repair as it would have had there been regular maintenance,” Curley said.

The MTC isin the midst of upgrading a 25-year transportation plan that will attempt to deal with such issues as road repair. The plan, coined Transportation 2030, will be discussed Friday at MTC’s planning committee meeting.

maldax@examiner.com

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