State highway conditions
are best in 19 years; traffic
congestion drops: study
Sep 3, 2010 9:31 AM
We often hear the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling, but state highway conditions are the best they’ve been in 19 years, according to Reason Foundation’s 19th annual Highway Report. Unfortunately, the recession is partly responsible for the improvement in road conditions. People are driving less, which has helped slow pavement deterioration and reduced traffic congestion and fatalities.
The annual study measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories, including deficient bridges, urban traffic congestion, fatality rates, pavement condition on urban and rural Interstates and on major rural roads, and the number of unsafe narrow rural lanes. National performance in all of those key areas improved in 2008, the most recent year with complete data available.
Overall, North Dakota, Montana, and Kansas have the most cost-effective state highway systems. Rhode Island, Alaska, California, Hawaii, and New York have the least cost-effective road systems.
Drivers in California, Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan, and Connecticut are stuck in the worst traffic. More than 65% of all urban Interstates are congested in each of those five states. But nationally, the percentage of urban Interstates that are congested fell below 50% for the first time since 2000, when congestion standards were revised.
Motorists in California and Hawaii have to look out for the most potholes on urban Interstates. In those two states, approximately 25% of urban Interstate pavement is in poor condition. Alaska and Rhode Island have the bumpiest rural roads. Nationally, pavement conditions on urban Interstates are the best they’ve been since 1993, and rural primary roads are the smoothest they’ve been since 1993 also.
Rhode Island has the most troubled bridges in the nation, with more than 53% of bridges deficient or functionally obsolete. For comparison, just 10% of top-ranked Nevada’s bridges are rated deficient. Across the country, 23.7% of America’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2008—the lowest percentage since 1984.
With the recession reducing driving, and engineering improving road design and car safety features, traffic fatalities have steadily fallen to the lowest levels since the 1960s. Massachusetts has the safest roads with just 0.67 fatalities per 100 million miles driven. Montana and Louisiana have the highest fatality rates, at 2.12 and 2.02 fatalities per 100 million miles driven.
The full Highway Report rankings are:
1. North Dakota
4. New Mexico
6. South Carolina
12. South Dakota
21. North Carolina
27. New Hampshire
30. West Virginia
45. New Jersey
46. New York
50. Rhode Island
Over the past two years New Jersey has moved up from last to 45th in the overall rankings, but still spends more than every other state. New Jersey spends $1.1 million per mile on state roads. The second-biggest spender, Florida, spends $671,000 per mile and California spends $545,000 per mile. South Carolina had the lowest expenses at $34,000 per mile.
The full report with state-by-state analysis is at http://reason.org/studies/show/19th-annual-highway-report.
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