Edmund Pettus BridgeEnlarge Photo
However a study from the Reason Foundation, a libertarian public policy group that also publishes Reason magazine, finds that state highway conditions "are the best they've been in 19 years."
The "19th Annual Highway Report," from 2008 data, finds that both rural primary roads and urban Interstates are the smoothest they've been since 1993. The explanation? In the recession, people are driving less, says the group, and that's helped slow pavement deterioration, allowed maintenance crews to keep up, and reduced congestion (and fatalities).
Nationally, note the report's authors, the percentage of urban Interstates that are considered congested fell below 50 percent for the first time since 2000. But in California, Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan, and Connecticut, 65 percent of urban Interstates are congested.
The report's authors did take into account deficient bridges, though they didn't appear to lend priority to this issue, which some safety and transportation experts have called critical because of the number of bridges either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
About a quarter of the pavement used for urban Interstates is in poor condition, while Alaska and Rhode Island have the bumpiest rural pavement.
The group says that North Dakota, Montana, and Kansas have the most cost-effective highway systems, while Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, and New York are the least cost-effective. New Jersey is the biggest spender, doling out $1.1 million per mile of state highway, while South Carolina spends just $34,000 per mile. California loses the most transportation funding ($93,464) to administrative costs.
On the Reason Foundation's most-improved list were Missouri (lower expenses but improved road conditions), Oregon (lower maintenance conditions though Interstate conditions worsened), and Mississippi (lower costs yet improved conditions). Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all spent more but road conditions either marginally improved or worsened.