Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reason Foundation's 19th Annual Highway Report Shows Alaska Only Number 49 In Highway Cost Effectiveness

The Reason Foundation has released its "19th Annual Highway Report", which assesses the overall cost effectiveness of America's road system by state in 2008, the last year for which full data is available, and it shows that Alaska ranks only number 49 overall. However, their analysis for Alaska reveals that our state may be excessively penalized for its large size and the significant percentage of the state that is rural. The local Alaska media has not yet picked up this story.

-- Read the full 109-page report HERE; may take up to three minutes to load.

The annual Reason Foundation study measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories, including deficient bridges, urban traffic congestion, fatality rates, pavement condition on urban and rural Interstates and on major rural roads, and the number of unsafe narrow rural lanes. National performance in all of those key areas improved in 2008, the most recent year with complete data available.

From pages 38 and 44 (on the text) of the full report comes these summaries for Alaska:

In 2008, Alaska ranked 49th in the overall performance ratings, one position up from 2007 when it was ranked last. Alaska has 8,453 miles under the state-owned highway system. Its best ratings were for urban Interstate congestion (7th), capital and bridge disbursements per mile (13th), administrative disbursements per mile (14th), total disbursements per mile (15th) and urban Interstate condition (17th). However, its worst ratings were for rural other principal arterial condition (50th), rural Interstate pavement condition (48th) and maintenance disbursements per mile (33rd). Complete rankings below:

State-Controlled Highway Miles: 34th
State Highway Agency Miles: 2nd
Total Disbursements: 15th
Capital and Bridge Disbursements: 13th
Maintenance Disbursements: 33rd
Administrative Disbursements: 14th
Rural Interstate Condition: 48th
Rural Other Principal Arterial Condition: 50th
Urban Interstate Condition: 17th
Urban Interstate Congestion: 7th
Deficient or Functionally Obsolete Bridges: 23rd
Fatality Rates: 24th
Narrow Rural Lanes: 26th

Overall, the 49th ranking is up from 50th in 2007, but down from 40th in 2000.

The report clearly reflects an urban-rural divide. While Alaska is better than average in maintaining urban road systems, Alaska is significantly worse than average in rural road maintenance. Much of this gap is attributable not only to Alaska's sheer size, but to the fact that such a large part of Alaska is thinly-populated rural area. The low population does not generate enough of a revenue base to justify in the minds of decision-makers a greater investment in Alaska's rural road network. Furthermore, there's not been much public support for more road links in rural areas; many people in Juneau and Cordova, for example, have been opposed to linking their cities to the outside road network. Alaska's rigorous winters also add to the cost of road maintenance. But for the time being, Alaska's road network is fully competitive where it counts the most.

Reason Foundation was founded in 1968. Reason advances a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law. Its nonpartisan public policy research promotes choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress. They publish a monthly print magazine of free minds and free markets covering politics, culture, and ideas through a provocative mix of news, analysis, commentary, and reviews. The magazine is available locally at Barnes & Noble.

1 comment:

  1. One interesting point is most Alaskan rural roads are part of the BIA Indian Reservation Road System. They are own and/or maintained by tribes and funded through Federal funding and are not controlled, maintained, or funded by State or local governments. This is a unique situation in Alaska. An as for maintenance, I recently priced a repair job where gravel was $200-300 per cubic yard in Alaska where in Anchorage it would be $20-40 per cubic yard. That kind of cost difference really throws off the numbers.