Transportation Policy

Reason Foundation Study Produces Surprising Good News: State Highways Are Better Than They've Been in a While!


Anyone re-read this recently? How's it holding up?

From today's USA Today:

A new report on the condition of the USA's state highways finds that they are in the best shape they have been in nearly 20 years.

The annual study by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based, libertarian, non-profit think tank, credits road improvement progress man by states and decreased wear and tear as commuters and commercial truckers drove less during the recession.

"Lo and behold, we've actually been making slow but steady progress on most performance measures," says report author David Hartgen, professor emeritus of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. The study says states did a better job of maintaining and repairing roads and bridges in 2008, the most recent year for which complete data are available. "Human nature focuses on the pothole rather than the couple of miles of smooth pavement in front of and after the pothole," Hartgen says.

Some highlights from the study, which you can read here:

* Best overall and most cost-effective roads: 1) North Dakota 2) Montana 3) Kansas 4) New Mexico 5) Nebraska

* Worst overall and least cost-effective roads: 1) Rhode Island 2) Alaska 3) California 4) Hawaii 5) New York

* New Jersey spends more than $1.1 million per mile on the roads it controls. South Carolina spends just $34,000 per mile, yet ranks 6th in best overall roads.

* California spends $93,464 in administrative costs for each mile of road it controls, while Kentucky spends just $1,100 per mile on administrative costs.

* Most traffic congestion, urban Interstates: 1) California 2) Minnesota 3) Maryland 4) New Jersey 5) North Carolina

* Worst pavement condition, urban Interstates: 1) Hawaii 2) California 3) New Jersey 4) Vermont 5) Oklahoma

* Most deficient bridges: 1) Rhode Island 2) Massachusetts (over half of both states' bridges are deficient or functionally obsolete)

* Lowest fatality rate: Massachusetts

* Highest fatality rate: Montana

Find out how your state ranked here!

NEXT: Can the U.S. Afford $70 Billion in Tax Relief in 2011?

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  1. I’d normally post this in morning links, but since I’m a little late to checking H&R this morning, here goes:

    CNBC on Whacky Taxes

    1. I hate articles that have to draw things out into a dozen separate pages with stupid images. Just give me the damn list!

      1. Sing it, brother!

      2. Yup. One and done. Same as for child molesters.

  2. Louisiana’s lowest rankings are in fatality rates (49th)

    In other words, don’t be on the road on a Saturday night.

  3. Union road work costs vs. non-union road work costs. Come on Reason, you can do it.

    1. You have to factor the kickbacks in too, though.

  4. “* Best overall and most cost-effective roads: 1) North Dakota 2) Montana 3) Kansas 4) New Mexico 5) Nebraska

    * Worst overall and least cost-effective roads: 1) Rhode Island 2) Alaska 3) California 4) Hawaii 5) New York”

    With the exception of Alaska, what do all of the second group have in common? Could the fact that they are all run by corrupt Democratic machines have anything to do with them having lousy roads despite enormous tax burdens?

    1. Well Alaska is run by a corrupt Republican machine, so we can loop them in too.

      1. I thought of that after I posted it. It is not surprising that corrupt government machines don’t make the trains run on time. Sadly, they used to. The old big city machines were crooks, but they actually ran the cities with a little bit of efficiency. Our current machines don’t even do that.

    2. True, but then IL should be way down there, too.
      Hah, they’re 11th worst.
      Bout right.

    3. It looks to me like the top five are some of the least densely populated states.

      1. Not really. Alaska and California are huge states. I doubt they have really high overall densities. And high density states like Connecticut or New Jersey are not in the top five.

        1. Connecticut is in the top ten. So is New Jersey.

  5. So, it’s more cost-effective to build roads where nobody lives (the outlier being Alaska).

    1. If I get time I will look at the study myself. I hope they normalized it to the amount of traffic on the roads.

      1. If we’re talking about new roads, they’d also have to account for the cost of buying/condemning the property to build the road. Methinks that’s cheaper in North Dakota than in NJ.

  6. Highest fatality rate: Montana

    NUMERO UNO, Baby!
    Suck it, losers; we’re doing our part to rid Earth of its nasty biological infestation, one pickup truck at a time.


    2. One pickup/moose encouter in Montana equals a bus explosion in Massachusetts.

  7. “road improvement progress man by states”

    Anybody know what that means?

    1. Thought the same thing. Maybe managed?

      1. “road improvement progress, man, by states”*

        *I speak stoner

        1. Nice. That must be it.

  8. Worst overall and least cost-effective roads: 1) Rhode Island 2) Alaska 3) California 4) Hawaii 5) New York

    It’s hilarious when you pass from CT to NY on, say, 95 or 84, and the road instantly–at the “welcome to NY” sign–goes to complete shit. NY is really bad with the roads.

    1. Hard to build roads after the SEIU and various politicians take their cut of revenues.

    2. Worst pavement condition, urban Interstates: 1) Hawaii

      I wonder if it’s the same when you take the Interstate to Hawaii.

      1. I’m not sure exactly how Hawaii has interstate anything that doesn’t involve air or ocean travel.

    3. What in the hell are you talking about!? The second you cross into Westchester County, NY from CT, it’s total smooth sailing. The Westchester Co portion of I-95 is very well-maintained. New York City, on the other hand…

      And the second you cross into Danbury, CT from Putnam Co NY, the roads become real shitty. And if you like the shitty roads in Danbury/Fairfield Co, CT, just wait until you see Waterbury’s! And how about those shitty interchange designs on the Merritt Parkway? Hell, how about the shitty interchange/traffic designs ANYWHERE in Connecticut, for that matter?

      I moved to Maryland a while back and it’s amazing how superior the roads here are to the ones in NY where I used to live!

      1. Crap, I meant to say “Pennsylvania,” not “Maryland.” I have no idea why I typed “Maryland”… I think I was gonna make a point about it but then changed my mind.

  9. * New Jersey spends more than $1.1 million per mile on the roads it controls. South Carolina spends just $34,000 per mile, yet ranks 6th in best overall roads.

    No doubt this cost difference is due to the toll boths every 1/8 mile in NJ.

    1. They’ve got to pay for the toll booth workers’ pensions somehow.

      1. I think it was Corzine, and someone else, maybe Whitman, that wanted to eliminate tolls, and raise gas taxes to compensate (NJ has very low gas taxes, believe it or not), and it was the unions that fought the hardest against it.

    2. There’s only one way out of the state without having to pay a toll.

    3. and its all union work in NJ. And they have to pay a police officer OT to supervise the construction/repairs, day or night, at all times. Not sure if this is the norm in other states, though.

      1. and its all union work in NJ.

        As far as the road construction goes, it’s union employees that work for private (connected) contractors. That’s called “double penetration”.

    4. No doubt this cost difference is due to the toll boths every 1/8 mile in NJ.

      Stay off the Parkway.

  10. Most traffic congestion, urban Interstates:… 2) Minnesota…

    And the idiots in my state will respond to this with “See, we are right, we really do need to invest more in light rail transit!”

    Sometimes I wonder, between the frozen winters and the statist moralistic society, why I continue to live here.

    1. Come to Texas. Minnesotans find it very agreeable.

      1. Frozen winters or scorching summers? Hmmm, I can always add more layers of clothing if I need to. I can only take off so much, though.

        1. I agree, but when you add it to all the other things it becomes a bit much. Minnesota is the leftist version of Utah.

          1. You mean hot blondes?

    2. Bitch all you want, but the Hiawatha line in Minneapolis is great. If I want to go from my office to the airport, I just hop on the train. It costs me $2.50 as opposed to a cab, which is more than $25.00 or parking at the airport for $30/day. Sure, I understand that it requires subsidies — Which I pay for — but for decades, I have been subsidizing the Metro in DC, BART in Ess Eff and the subway in NY. Abut time I finally got a bit of that back.

      I look forward to a second line connecting Minneapolis to St. Paul. I’d go to St. Paul a lot more often.

      1. Let me guess, you are also one of those people that say “You know, I don’t like giving tax payer money to billionaires, but I REALLY LIKE the Minnesota Twins”

        1. The two are not mutually exclusive.

          I do not like giving tax money to billionaires is any business sector.

          Baseball is fun to watch, but not as fun as womens college basketball.

          I also eat corn.

      2. A surface level train that completely fucks traffic on Hiawatha and that has killed more people that concealed weapons permit holders. Yeah it’s great.

        1. Right, because until the train was there, no car driver, passenger or pedestrian was ever killed on Hiawatha Avenue.

          1. Not by the train. I would like to infer that those killed by the train, probably would not have been killed by the train had there been no train. The train sucks, it’s a boondoggle of immense proportions. But I’m glad I can subsidize your commute.

            BTW- I lived 3 blocks from the 46th Street station and worked downtown. I rode it for a while until I realized it still wasn’t convenient enough.

      3. How about we, perhaps, not subsidize the lines in DC? If trains are, in fact, more efficient, they should be able to compete on their own merits. To level the playing field, of course, all interstate expenses should come from gas taxes, rather than subsidizing it with general tax revenues.

    3. why I continue to live here

      Admit it, Mike. It’s the lutefisk.

      1. Indeed.

        1. Lutefisk is terrible. Once. Never again will I try it. I’ve put my intestines through enough already.

          1. Ever notice how people who say they love lutefisk only take very tiny portions? And then drown it in mustard? And then only eat the mustard?

  11. I refuse to believe that MA has the lowest mortality rate. MA drivers are completely insane!

    1. It’s hard to kill someone when you are only going 5 mph down 128.

  12. I refuse to believe that MA has the lowest mortality rate.

    Heh. The MA driving style is generally slow and incompetent; it’s easy to hurt yourself, but hard to kill yourself, that way. Plus the potholes keep you from picking up too much speed.

    1. But for Montana, barreling down an icey highway at 80mph in a marginally maintained truck – run into a Moose or elk or other forest creature – if you survive the crash it will be 3 days before anyone notices your wreck and you’ll have bled out or frozen by then.

      Good times.

  13. I wonder how good the roads would be in Libertopia. Alas, we’ll never know.

    1. Depends on who owns them.

    2. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

    3. I wonder how good Max’s mom is. Actually, I know (or knew, in the biblical sense), and she wasn’t that great.

  14. by the way, “blue highways” is a pretty good read, if you are into contmeplative musing of what you will find on the backroads of America. The author’s name may lead some to believe that it is some lefty enviro screech, but i think it gives some good insight into the character of Americans.

  15. We regularly go up to Tennessee/North Carolina for mountain vacations, and I usually get off the interstate somewhere between Macon and Atlanta and do most of the rest of the trip on state highways. Love it. And the state highways are much better for taking stops to buy some peaches or other local goodies that aren’t junk.

    1. Perhaps if I75 in GA from virtually the state line through Macon hadn’t been under continuous construction for the last decade, that ride would be a little more tolerable.

  16. New York ($89,194 per mile), Massachusetts ($71,982), and New Jersey ($62,748) also compare poorly to states like Texas ($6,529) and Virginia ($6,370) that spend dramatically less on administrative costs.

    We can get it lower… but WOOT anyway.

    1. KY – $1100

      We dont do a lot right, but I will take what I can.

      1. No shit.

        And last I checked, KY roads were every bit as good as those in CA.

        1. KY’s overall costs isnt that great, but we arent wasting money on admistrative overhead bullshit, which is nice. Now if we could get the schools to follow suit.

  17. Lowest fatality rate: Massachusetts

    Mary Jo Kopechne was not available for comment.

    1. The woman is as elusive as Elvis.

  18. It’s interesting that Montana ranks high in Best Overall and yet is high in fatalities. Do good roads mean people drive faster? Or is Montana so empty response times for emergency services are greater?

    1. They have far more liberal speed limits from what I saw during my recen visit.

      Even 2 lane highways through national forest are 70mph.

      Add to that the utter remoteness of vast swaths of Montana (even around the Glacier National Park, there are spots at least 30 minutes from any meaningful population center with emergency response units.

      I imagine in some places help may be an hour or more away on a fast night.

  19. Part of the higher costs for roads in New Jersey results from out high land prices and the fact that most of the places where you might want to build a road already have a building there. Part of the higher cost result from the corruption and incompetence of our officials.

  20. Seriously? California spends $500,000 per year per MILE of state controlled road, including $90,000 per year per mile in administrative costs? How is that possible?

    1. Unions. Union bosses. Corrupt Politicians. Backroom deals where money inexplicably ends up in personal bank accounts.

      You know; the usual.

  21. South Carolina spends just $34,000 per mile, yet ranks 6th in best overall roads.

    My guess is that they ignored Charleston. The roads down here are crapola.

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