Nearly 52 percent of U.S. urban Interstates are now congested and traffic fatality rates rose slightly, but road surface conditions and bridge conditions improved, according to the Reason Foundation’s latest annual highway performance report.
“Gridlock isn’t going away,” said David T. Hartgen, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “States are going to have to prioritize and direct their transportation money to projects specifically designed to reduce congestion if we are going to reverse this troubling trend.”
Drivers in California, Minnesota, New Jersey and North Carolina are stuck in the worst traffic, with over 70 percent of urban Interstates in those states qualifying as congested, the researchers say.
The Reason Foundation study measures the performance of state-owned roads and highways from 1984 to 2005 in 12 different categories, including traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance and administrative costs, to determine each state’s ranking and cost-effectiveness.
The report finds that fatality rates vary significantly from state to state. Massachusetts reported the lowest fatality rate – 0.79 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Meanwhile, Montana’s roads were the deadliest, with 2.256 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. The national average was 1.453 fatalities, up slightly from 1.440 in 2004.
The study does find some good news for drivers. The percentage of roads in “poor condition” fell sharply for both interstate highways and major rural roads. Since 1998, the percentage of poor urban interstate mileage has been reduced by 31 percent. The number of bridges deemed deficient, meaning they are eligible for federal repair dollars, also fell slightly in 2005.
In the overall rankings, North Dakota and South Carolina took the top spots for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s gridlocked highways, poor pavement conditions and high repair costs put the state last in overall cost-effectiveness for the eighth consecutive year.
Florida, California, Michigan and New York are among the states joining New Jersey in the bottom 10. When it comes to comparing the nation’s most populous states, Georgia (6th overall), Texas (15th) and Ohio (16th) are the top performing large states.
“The big states that score well have been able to achieve needed improvements and adequate maintenance at relatively low costs.” Hartgen explains.
Ranking State Road Systems by Overall Performance
1. North Dakota 26. West Virginia
2. South Carolina 27. Arizona
3. Kansas 28. Arkansas
4. New Mexico 29. Colorado
5. Montana 30. Louisiana
6. Georgia 31. North Carolina
7. Wyoming 32. Washington
8. Oregon 33. Illinois
9. Nevada 34. New Hampshire
10. Idaho 35. Iowa
11. South Dakota 36. Pennsylvania
12. Kentucky 37. Vermont
13. Minnesota 38. Maryland
14. Indiana 39. Connecticut
15. Texas 40. Delaware
16. Ohio 41. Florida
17. Missouri 42. Michigan
18. Virginia 43. Alabama
19. Nebraska 44. California
20. Tennessee 45. Massachusetts
21. Utah 46. Hawaii
22. Wisconsin 47. Rhode Island
23. Maine 48. New York
24. Oklahoma 49. Alaska
25. Mississippi 50. New Jersey
Full Study Online
The full 16th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems, with detailed information for each state, is available online at http://www.reason.org/ps360.
Reason’s 2006 study showing how congested each city in the country will be in 2030 and how many new lane miles are needed to eliminate congestion is online at http://www.reason.org/ps346.
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