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Study Shows More Spending Does Not Equal Better Highways


More and more money is going into road improvements nationwide, but there has been very little progress in actually improving their condition, according to a new report from the California-based Reason Foundation.

According to Davit T. Hartgen, author of the 21st Annual Highway Report, states show small progress in repairing damages such as deficient bridges and pavement condition despite increased spending for highway improvements. In other words, just because a state is spending more money, that does not mean they are making more improvements.

“Many of the easiest repairs and fixes to state highway and bridge systems have already been made and the rate of progress is slowing down,” said Hartgen, lead author of the report since 1984. “A widening gap also seems to be emerging between states that are still making improvements and a few states that are really falling behind on highway maintenance and repairs.”

The report says that in 2012, spending on state-owned roads totaled $132 billion, which was a 6 percent increase from 2011, but spending varied widely from state to state. For example, South Carolina and West Virginia spent just $39,000 per state-controlled mile of road in 2012, while New Jersey spent over $2 million per mile. The next biggest spenders were Massachusetts, California and Florida, who all spent more than $500,000 per state-controlled mile.

One reason the roads aren’t getting better is high that administrative costs are taking up funds that could go towards road repairs, the report states. Hawaii showed to be the highest spender, with $90,000 on administrative costs for every mile of state road. Connecticut was the runner up with $77,000 spent per mile. Texas spent only $4,000 per state-owned mile, whereas Kentucky’s administrative costs were less than $1,000 per mile, the best in the nation.

The report said that from 2011 to 2012, pavement in rural highways stayed about the same, with less than 1 percent improvement. It also showed that almost half of the nation’s poor rural interstate can be found within the borders of five states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Washington and Indiana.

Rural arterial roads actually worsened from 2011 to 2012, with New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Alaska having the bumpiest terrain.

As far as the most cost-effective state highway systems, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota take first place. Kentucky, Wisconsin and Oklahoma produced the greatest improvements from 2011 to 2012, according to the report.

The Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report uses data from the federal government to measure the condition and cost effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories including pavement condition, deficient bridges, unsafe narrow lanes and traffic fatalities, administrative costs and total spending on state roads.

Here is the Reason Foundation’s 21st Annual Highway Report’s overall performance and cost-effective ratings taken from the website:

1. Wyoming 
2. Nebraska 
3. South Dakota 
4. South Carolina 
5. Kansas 
6. North Dakota 
7. New Mexico 
8. Mississippi 
9. Montana 
10. Kentucky 
11. Texas 
12. Missouri 
13. Georgia 
14. Ohio 
15. Wisconsin 
16. Maine 
17. Tennessee 
18. Iowa 
19. Arizona 
20. North Carolina 
21. Alabama 
22. Oklahoma 
23. New Hampshire 
24. Nevada 
25. Virginia 
26. Oregon 
27. Illinois 
28. Minnesota 
29. Utah 
30. Idaho 
31. Florida 
32. Michigan 
33. Colorado 
34. West Virginia 
35. Arkansas 
36. Indiana 
37. Delaware 
38. Vermont 
39. Maryland 
40. Louisiana 
41. Pennsylvania 
42. Washington 
43. New York 
44. Connecticut 
45. California 
46. Massachusetts 
47. Rhode Island 
48. New Jersey 
49. Alaska 
50. Hawai



The Reason Foundation





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