Riding Roughshod

Where not to drive


In Europe a modest rented VW Passat can fly down the freeways at 120 mph with nary a bump or shudder. And when the speedometer says 193 kilometers per hour, it seems even faster. Back home in California, 60 mph on the freeway feels like taxiing a jet without landing gear. No surprise there, because once again this year California shows up near the bottom of the heap on road maintenance.

A July report by the Reason Foundation, the organization that publishes this magazine, compares the performance of the country's state road departments. California came in a dismal 44th. Rounding out the bottom were New York, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alaska, and-dragging in the rear, where it has been for most of the previous 17 annual studies-New Jersey. The best roads were in North Dakota, followed by Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Kansas.

The report looked at potholes, road work, traffic, safety, and spending on highways and byways to figure out which states are getting the most bang for their buck. Earlier Reason Foundation reports have examined specific ways states can improve their road systems. The most important trends are the increasing use of tolling and privatization to expand and improve highways and bridges. When a road depends on direct revenue from users, there is more incentive to keep it well maintained.