Interstates 40 and 30 in Arkansas ranked among the most improved highways in the U.S. in an annual survey of over-the-road truck drivers released Dec. 6, the Arkansas News Bureau reported.
The Highway Report Card survey by Overdrive Magazine—a publication that ranks the nations best and worst roads and highways by states, as well as the most improved highways—was made public a week before Arkansas residents are to vote whether to extend the $575 million interstate reconstruction program first approved in 1999 that has financed repairs on more than 350 miles of Arkansas interstates, the News Bureau reported.
“Arkansas use to have the worst roads in the U.S., but they have now fallen off of that list,” said Steven Mackay, spokesman for Tuscaloosa, Alabama-based Randall Reilly Publishing Co., publisher of Overdrive Magazine. “We surveyed owner-operators from around the U.S., and they know the best and worst roads in the country better than anyone else.”
According to the Arkansas News Bureau, Gov. Mike Huckabee said that the survey results were good news going into the Dec. 13 special election. Early voting began Nov. 28 for Referred Question No. 1, the highway bond issue.
Huckabee credited the 1999 highway bond program with upgrading the state’s interstates. The program needs to continue to make sure Arkansas roads don’t fall back into disrepair, he said.
“What this [survey] demonstrates is the difference between trucking lobbyists and truckers who care about good roads,” Huckabee said.
“This is perhaps the most powerful tools to have going into the election,” the governor added.
A group lead by the trucking association—Citizens Against No. 1—recently planned a statewide fly-around campaign in opposition to the proposed bond issue. According to the newspaper, opponents condemn a provision of the proposal that would authorize the Arkansas Highway Commission to issue up to $575 million in bonds for future interstate repairs without a public vote.
Lane Kidd, president of the American Trucking Association, said recently that the trucking magazine survey plainly demonstrated the Highway Commission’s neglect of the Arkansas interstate highway system.
“Interstates 40 and 30 are the most improved highways in the nation simply because they were the absolutely worst in the nation five years ago,” Kidd said.
He said that if the Highway Commission had spent federal highway funds wisely in the past, both the 1999 bond program and the current ballot issue would not have been needed.
“The money raised from the  bonds have already been spent, but we won’t pay them off until 2014,” he said. “Bonds are not needed going forward.”
On Dec. 6, the Committee to Lead Education and Roads announced endorsements of both bond issues by a range of government, economic development and business groups, including the County Judges Association of Arkansas, the Arkansas Poultry Federation and the Economic Development of Jefferson County, the Arkansas News Bureau reported.
Mackey said more than 300 Overdrive readers responded to the magazine’s survey this fall. About 27% of readers who responded deliver goods in all 48 states, and 57% report 21 years or more in the trucking industry.
In the most-improved highway category, I-40 in Arkansas ranked first and 1-30 ranked third behind 1-80 in Pennsylvania.
Overall, according to the survey, Pennsylvania had the worst roads in the country, followed by Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan and California.
Texas had the best roads, while Florida ranked second and Tennessee ranked third in the survey. Georgia and Ohio tied for fourth place, and Nevada and Virginia together have the nation’s fifth-best thoroughfares.
The best three highways in the nation, as voted by the truckers, are I-75 in Florida, I-40 in Tennessee and I-10 in Texas. The worst highways include I-10 in Louisiana, I-44 in Missouri and I-95 in New York.
According to Mackey, Arkansas and Pennsylvania have dominated the worst-roads rankings since Overdrive Magazine began its annual survey in 1989.
“From 1999 to 2003, Arkansas owned that block of time for worst roads,” Mackey said.
Pennsylvania is also a multiple loser, topping the worst-roads category for the second consecutive year and the fifth time in a decade, the News Bureau reported.
The Overdrive survey not only ranked roads, but also the motorists who drive on them. Texas had the best drivers in the nation and California had the worst, according to the trucker’s survey.