Study ranking states by road condition reveals best, worst in nation

Rankings based on data from 1984-2005

News The Associated Press June 28, 2007
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North Dakota and South Carolina roads achieved the highest overall rankings in a study released Thursday ranking states by road condition, The Associated Press reported. New Jersey roads ranked the lowest.

Montana roads were ranked deadliest in the nation, and California, Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Carolina face some of the worst traffic, according to the study.

Based on data from 1984 to 2005, the study found that road conditions have improved in recent years, although traffic congestion and highway fatalities show a slight increase, the AP reported.

The study was conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and financed by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank.

State governments are faced with having to shoulder a greater share of the cost of building and maintaining highways, with the federal highway fund running short of money for major highway projects, the AP reported.

"Gridlock isn't going away," said Dr. David T. Hartgen, the highway study's lead author. Hartgen said the results show that states need to prioritize, directing their transportation funds to projects specifically focused on reducing congestion, according to the AP.

The study ranked highway systems in each state according to their cost-effectiveness, which was determined by factors including traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance and administrative costs. Highways and all state-owned roads were evaluated.

North Dakota, South Carolina, Kansas, New Mexico and Montana are the five states with the most cost-effective roads, according to the study, while the bottom five states are New Jersey, Alaska, New York, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

Traffic fatalities rose by less than 1% between 2004 and 2005, according to the study’s findings. Montana had the deadliest roads, with 2.3 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, while Massachusetts roads were the safest, with 0.8 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles.

Congestion also rose, according the study, with almost 52% of the nation's urban interstate highways regularly congested in 2005, the last year evaluated.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a statement that despite increases in spending over the past 25 years, congestion has nearly tripled in metropolitan areas during that period. Resolving the issue has been a priority for the department, which announced last year a plan to fight gridlock through long-terms investments in key corridors, the AP reported.

"It's so important to get our transportation policies headed in the right direction--away from the federal government and back to the states and localities where innovation in America has always originated," Peters said.

Congress will have to find new sources of revenue if it wants to tackle the problems, according to Matt Jeanneret, spokesman for American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). Americans spend 47 hours a year stuck in traffic, according to an ARTBA estimate.

"This illustrates the capacity crisis that is facing this country, which is only going to get worse if trends stay the same," Jeanneret said. "We are bursting at the seams with motor vehicles and we're not adding capacity to that."

Janet Kavinoky, who works on transportation issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says the nation's traffic woes are at crisis levels, the AP reported. "There's more bad news coming," Kavinoky said. "You hate holiday traffic? Pretty soon it's going to be business as usual."

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