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Study Ranks States on Road Conditions and Cost-Effectiveness

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

The Reason Foundation’s 17th Annual Report on the Performance of State
Highway Systems measures the performance of all state-owned roads and
highways from 1984 to 2006. The study calculates the effectiveness and
performance of each state in 12 different categories, including traffic
fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway
maintenance costs, and administrative costs.

North Dakota’s state-owned highway system is the nation’s most
cost-effective, an honor the state has held since 2001. North Dakota
finished first, or tied for first, in five of the report’s 12
categories, including rural interstate condition. Montana jumped from
5th to 2nd in the overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings.
New Mexico continues to show marked improvement. The state ranked 27th
in 2000, and was up to 3rd overall in 2006. Wyoming moves up from 7th in
2005 to 4th overall. Kansas rounds out the top five.

New Jersey, which has ranked last every year since 2000,
continues to be the nation’s least cost-effective and worst-performing
road system. Despite having the nation’s 4th smallest state-owned
highway system, New Jersey finished dead last in five of the study’s 12
categories. Several of the least populous states performed very poorly,
and make up the rest of the bottom five: Alaska (49th), Rhode Island
(48th), Hawaii (47th), and New Hampshire (46th).

Texas, home to the nation’s largest state-controlled highway
system, ranked 12th overall in performance and cost-effectiveness. South
Carolina, owner of the country’s 5th largest system, ranks 6th overall.
Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Virginia are some of the other
top-performing large states.

As traffic jams in large cities escalate and spread to smaller
areas, 35 states are now reporting that at least 40 percent of their
urban interstate highways are congested, up from 31 states the previous
year, according to an annual study of the nation’s highways. With urban
congestion even hitting South Dakota, the list of states without any
clogged interstates is down to just three: Montana, North Dakota, and

Drivers in California, Minnesota, and North Carolina are stuck
in the nation’s worst traffic – over 70 percent of urban interstate
highways in those states qualified as congested. California earned the
dubious honor of ‘most congested’ state – 83 percent of its interstates
are congested, according to the 17th annual highway study by the Reason
Foundation, a nonprofit think tank Eighteen states now report that at
least half of their urban interstate highways are congested.

Overall, 50.7 percent of the nation’s urban interstate highways
were congested in 2006, a slight 1 percent improvement from 2005, when
51.8 percent were jammed. The statistical improvement is due, at least
partly, to many states increasing the declared capacities of their

Deficient bridges were thrust into the spotlight in 2007
because of the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse. Minnesota actually
ranks 5th best in the nation, with 13 percent of its bridges deficient.
Of the nearly 600,000 highway bridges in the country, 24.1 percent were
reported deficient and/or functionally obsolete in 2006, a minor
improvement from 2005 when 25.5 were deemed deficient. At the current
rate of repair it will take 62 years for today’s deficient bridges to be
brought up to date.

In Rhode Island a stunning 53 percent of state’s bridges are
deficient or obsolete. New Yorkers (38 percent deficient and obsolete)
and Pennsylvanians (39 percent) won’t feel much better about the
condition of their bridges. Nevada has the lowest percentage of
deficient bridges in the country, 3.9 percent.

For the third consecutive year, Massachusetts had the safest
highways (0.785 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled),
while Montana’s were the deadliest for the second straight year (2.364
fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled).

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