Annual report says Idaho transportation system slipping

A report released recently by the Reason Foundation indicates Idaho's historic high ranking for performance of its highway system slipped in 2008.

Idaho’s 2008 ranking

  • State-controlled highway miles, 43rd
  • State highway agency miles, 25th
  • Total disbursements, 24th
  • Maintenance disbursements, 28th
  • Administrative disbursements, 12th
  • Rural interstate condition, 31st
  • Rural other principal arterial condition, 12nd
  • Urban interstate condition, 42nd
  • Urban interstate congestion, 15th
  • Deficient or functionally obsolete bridges, 16th
  • Fatality rates, 39th
  • Narrow rural lanes, 9th

The Reason Foundation publishes an annual report about the performance of state highway systems based on a complex set of criteria. David T. Hartgen, emeritus professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, has been tracking the performance of transportation systems since 1984. The annual study measures the condition and cost effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories, including deficient bridges, urban traffic congestion, fatality rates and pavement condition on urban and rural interstates and other factors.

Idaho held a fairly prominent position in the annual rankings, regularly placing in the top 10 and ranking eighth in 2004. As funding became scarcer, however, Idaho’s ranking has steadily declined – to 10th in 2005, 14th the following year and 17th in the latest (2008) report.

During that same period, several other states have improved their performances.

“We’re seeing several factors combine to produce significant improvement in highway conditions,” Hartgen wrote. “Over the last several years, states invested a lot more money to improve pavement and bridges, Spending increased 8 percent from 2007 to 2008, and per-mile spending on state roads has almost tripled since 1984 (when the first report was published).

”But as states run short of money and deal with large budget deficits, we’ll see if this progress can be continued.”

North Dakota remains at the top of the system performance list – a place it has held for several years. Montana (second), Wyoming (seventh) and Oregon (10th) lead the western states. California, Alaska and Rhode Island rank 48, 49 and 50 respectively at the bottom of the performance list.

Other report findings:

  • Drivers in California, Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan and Connecticut are stuck in the worst traffic.
  • Motorists in California and Hawaii contend with the most potholes on urban interstates.
  • Alaska and Rhode Island have the bumpiest rural pavement.
  • Rhode Island has the most troubled bridges in the country.
  • With the recession reducing driving, and engineering improving road design and car safety features, traffic fatalities have steadily fallen to the lowest levels since the 1960s.

Published 9-17-2010