Driving on Bumpy Streets May Be Costing You More Than You Think

(Driving down rough road)

Wendy: “That’s one pothole. That’s two…. Luckily I’ve swerved to miss four out of the five that I just passed in the span of about, I don’t know, ten seconds.”

Driving along Broadway in southeast Houston can be tense. Potholes, uneven pavement, and jarring dips in the road lie in ambush on every block. Whether your car will be able to dodge all the hazardous obstacles or come out on the other side with a busted suspension is anyone’s guess. Perhaps that’s too harsh of an assessment, but roads like Broadway are one of the reasons Houstonians shell out an average of 438 dollars a year in additional operating costs, according to a recent report by the national transportation research group TRIP.

“That’s money you would not be spending if the roads were all in good condition.”

Frank Moretti is the director of policy and research at TRIP. He says the group came up with the 438 dollar figure by looking at a variety of factors.

“As pavements deteriorate, you’re having a rougher ride, and you feel that as a motorist. Well, what that’s doing to your vehicle is it’s accelerating the deterioration of the vehicle. Quite simply, it’s falling apart that much more quickly. It increases fuel consumption which obviously costs more money at the pump, and also routine maintenance needs increase.”

(Sound of air ratchet in auto shop).

Michael Curry knows first-hand the toll bumpy streets can take on cars. He works at Foster’s Automotive Services in East Houston.

“We’re seeing everyday damages to tire rod ends, to king pins, to chassis systems, to struts. The roads are just abhorrent. It’s horrible.”

Allen Curry is the manager at Foster's. He's also Michael Curry's cousin. He says the poor quality of Houston’s roads mean drivers need more repairs, repairs many are currently unable to afford.

You have a situation where the economy’s depressed. People don’t have the extra dollars to put into their cars. And then the streets tear up the cars and then you have a bunch of unsafe vehicles riding around on the streets, which is what we’re seeing in the shop. And then people decline the repairs. So next to you on the freeways are cars with ball joints that are torn up and they are literally unsafe.

Houston roads may not be in the best shape, but with TRIP ranking them as just 28th worst in the country, they aren’t nearly as bad as places like San Jose, California, which came in at number one. Still, according to the report, more of Houston’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition than in fair or good condition. Officials say the increase in heavy truck traffic bears part of the blame for the crumbling streets. And with 50 billion dollars recently slashed from the Houston Galveston Area Council's Regional Transportation Plan, money for road improvements will likely be hard to come by.

So for the time being, it looks like Houstonians will still have fork out that extra cash — if they can — to compensate for driving their cars on the city’s rough roads.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Wendy Siegle.
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