February 21, 2013

“Study: 20 Years of Highway Data Shows Roads and Bridges Aren’t Crumbling”

Had I edited this study (pdf) from the Reason Foundation, I’d have added the subtitle:  “So take your Keynesian shovel-ready jobs bullshit and stuff it up your fat pampered half-white ass, President Food Stamp.”

Which, it’s probably a good thing I remain here, a non-editor, safely on the outer fringes of right-wing extremism, alongside the Birchers, the Neo-Nazis, the Klan, and the ghosts of racist misogynists past.  Like Washington and Jefferson and Adams and Franklin and Mason and Madison.  Who, like me, today the NIH would argue were psychically damaged radicals whom King George would have had every right — nay, every patriotic responsibility — to string up from the nearest lamppost.

But be that as it may.

From Chris McDonnell, Communications Director of the Reason Foundation:

President Barack Obama’s new infrastructure plan calls for spending $40 billion on “urgent upgrades.” But a new Reason Foundation report examining 20 years of state highway data finds the condition of America’s state-controlled roads has improved in seven key areas including deficient bridges and pavement condition.

All 50 states lowered their highway fatality rates from 1989 to 2008 and 40 states reduced their deficient bridges during that time. Nationwide, the number of deficient bridges in the country fell from 37.8 percent of all bridges in 1989 to 23.7 percent in 2008.

The Reason Foundation study tracks spending per mile on state-owned roads and measures road performance in seven categories: miles of urban Interstate highways in poor pavement condition, miles of rural Interstates in poor condition, congestion on urban Interstates, deficient bridges, highway fatalities, rural primary roads in poor condition and the number of rural primary roads flagged as too narrow.

In the 20 years examined, 11 states (North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Maine, Montana, Tennessee, Kansas, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Florida) made progress in all seven categories and 37 states improved in at least five of the seven metrics.

California was the only state that failed to improve in at least three areas, making strides only in deficient bridges and fatalities. Five states-New York, Hawaii, Utah, Vermont and Mississippi-progressed in just three categories.

The Reason Foundation study finds the amount of state-controlled road mileage increased by just .6 percent from 1989 to 2008. However, spending per mile on state-administered roads grew by 60 percent, adjusted for inflation, during that time. Texas and Florida led the growth in spending, with Texas increasing its per mile spending by 174.5 percent and Florida raising its spending by 149.6 percent, adjusted for inflation.

The percentage of urban Interstates with poor pavement condition dropped slightly from 6.6 percent in 1989 to 5.4 percent in 2008. Two states, Nevada and Missouri made remarkable turnarounds. In 1989, nearly half of their urban Interstates were in poor condition, but by 2008 less than 2 percent were in poor condition.

The percentage of rural Interstates rated in poor condition was reduced by over two-thirds, from 6.60 percent in 1989 to 1.93 percent in 2008. However, almost all of the improvements came before 1999 and two states reported rural conditions worsening by more than five percentage points: New York and California.

“There are still plenty of problems to fix, but our roads and bridges aren’t crumbling,” said David Hartgen, lead author of the Reason Foundation report and emeritus professor of transportation at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “The overall condition of the state-controlled road system is getting better and you can actually make the case that it has never been in better shape. The key going forward is to target spending where it will do the most good.”

The report compiles data from a variety of sources, primarily from information the states themselves reported to the federal government from 1989 through 2008. The full report is here and state-by-state summaries are here. Complete data for the year 2009 will soon be available.

Spending on State-Controlled Highways

Spending on state-controlled highways increased 177 percent from $52,000 per mile in 1989 to $145,000 per mile in 2008 (in nominal dollars). Adjusted for inflation, spending per mile on state-controlled Interstates grew by 60 percent.

Spending per mile in Texas, adjusted for inflation, increased 174.5 percent from 1989 to 2008 on state-controlled roads. Four other states increased state highway spending by more than 100 percent after adjusting for inflation: Florida, Oregon, Washington and California.

After adjusting for inflation, two states-Connecticut and Delaware-decreased their spending per mile on state-controlled roads. Connecticut’s spending decreased 35.2 percent per mile and Delaware’s spending fell 22.4 percent per mile from 1989 to 2008.

Deficient Bridges

The percentage of deficient bridges in the country fell from 37.8 percent of all bridges in 1989 to 23.7 percent in 2008. However, at the current rate of repair it would take over 50 years to fix all of the bridges that are deficient.

Overall, 40 states lowered the percentage of deficient bridges from 1989 to 2008. In 1989, over half, 56.3 percent, of Mississippi’s bridges were deficient. In 2008, 24.7 percent were deficient. Nebraska went from having 55.1 percent of its bridges deficient in 1989 down to 23.6 percent in 2008.

On the other hand, the number of deficient bridges rose in 10 states: Hawaii, Alaska, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Idaho, Arizona, Utah, Ohio, South Carolina, and Oregon.

Urban Interstate Condition

Overall, the percentage of urban Interstates in poor condition across the U.S. fell slightly, from 6.6 percent in poor condition in 1989 to 5.4 percent in 2008.

Nevada and Missouri made remarkable turnarounds. In 1989, 47.8 of Nevada’s urban Interstates were in poor condition. In 2008, just 1.6 percent were poor. Missouri’s urban Interstate mileage in poor condition decreased from 46.7 percent in 1989 to 1.3 percent in 2008.

Meanwhile, seven states reported more than 10 percent of their urban Interstates in poor condition in 2008. A quarter of Hawaii’s Interstates were in poor condition in 2008. In 1989, just 4.1 percent of California’s urban Interstates were in poor condition. In 2008, that number had ballooned to 24.7 percent. Vermont went from 2.9 percent of urban Interstates in poor condition in 1989 to 17.5 percent in 2008. New Jersey, Oklahoma, New York and Louisiana are the other states with more than 10 percent of urban Interstates in poor condition.

Rural Interstate Condition

The percentage of rural Interstates rated in poor condition was reduced by over two-thirds, from 6.60 percent in 1989 to 1.93 percent in 2008. However, almost all of the improvements came before 1999.

Five states (Missouri, Rhode Island, Idaho, Nevada and Wisconsin) reduced their percentage of poor rural Interstates from over 20 percent to near zero. Two states reported rural conditions worsening by more than five percentage points from 1989 to 2008: New York and California. And just four states had more than 5 percent of rural Interstates in poor condition as of 2008: California, Alaska, New Jersey and New York.

Urban Interstate Congestion

Overall, congestion on Interstates decreased from 52.6 percent in 1989 to 48.6 percent in 2008. Between 1999 and 2008, however, the percentage of congested urban Interstates increased by 8.5 percentage points. Moreover, some of the overall reduction in congestion can certainly be attributed to the recent economic recession. Without the current recession, fewer states would have experienced reductions in congestion.

As it stands, 29 states reduced urban Interstate congestion between 1989 and 2008. Six states (Delaware, Massachusetts, Virginia, Alaska, Missouri and South Carolina) reported improvements greater than 20 percentage points. In 1989, 68.3 percent of Delaware’s urban Interstates were congested. In 2008, 24.4 percent were congested. Massachusetts’ urban Interstate congestion went from 68.5 percent in 1989 to 41.6 percent in 2008.

Eighteen states reported a worsening of urban Interstate congestion. The greatest increase in congestion, 36.2 percentage points, was in Minnesota. Kentucky, where congestion worsened 33.9 percentage points, was next. Iowa, Alabama, Idaho and Mississippi also saw urban congestion rise by more than 20 percentage points.

Fatality Rates

Between 1989 and 2008, the U.S. fatality rate improved from 2.16 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles to 1.25 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles, a drop of about 42 percent.

All 50 states lowered their highway fatality rates from 1989 to 2008, and all but three states (Oregon, Kentucky and Delaware) reported improvements from 1999 to 2008. New Mexico, Nevada and Mississippi saw the biggest decreases in fatality rates.

This week the National Safety Council reported that traffic fatalities rose in 2012 for the first time in several years.

Rural Primary Road Pavement Condition

The percentage of rural arterial roads in poor condition improved from 2.6 percent in 1989 to just 0.5 percent in 2008. Thirty-four states lowered the percentage of rural arterials in poor condition and three states (Alaska, Montana and Idaho) reduced their percentage of poor rural pavement by more than 10 percent.

Narrow Lanes on Rural Primaries

Narrow lanes on major rural roads are a key measure of sight visibility and safety. The proportion of narrow lanes on the rural primary system improved from 12.9 percent in 1993 (the earliest year of comparable data) to 9.6 percent in 2008. Hawaii, Rhode Island, Arkansas and New Jersey made the biggest improvements.

The Size of State Highway Systems

North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania and South Carolina have the largest state-administered highway systems. Hawaii, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey and Massachusetts have the smallest.

The left operates on lies and succeeds to a degree they can keep the populace uninformed and afraid — and so desirous of a government savior.  That the Republicans have decided that in order to succeed politically they must become more like the left, rather than distance themselves ever more from the left, is a testament to the intellectual bankruptcy of the kind of pragmatism that dictates political calculus.

Winning elections doesn’t fix problems.  The right ideas and policies do — and as history has shown us, were we still interested enough in history to learn from it — that the best policies for expanding liberty and increasing wealth are those that constrain government to the few essential tasks for which it actually needed.

Sadly, professional politicians are hurt most by just such policies, and as we now have as a governing class nothing but professional politicians, we are unlikely to affect any significant change from within the federal Leviathan.  Or even most state governments, given their reliance on federal largess.

Sorry, but it’s the truth.  What’s needed is a full-scale political purging.  But for that to happen, we’d need an educated populace.

Catch-22.  Game, set, match, the left.  Which is exactly what anyone should have been able to foresee who recognized that we were playing the game on the left’s board by their rules.

Fortunately, reality has a way of wiping the board clean.  So maybe next time, right?






Posted by Jeff G. @ 11:26am

Comments (20)

  1. The important thing to remember is that because it didn’t happen today, it will never happen ever.

  2. roads are my favorite

  3. Just reading the parts of the study you quoted, Jeff, it seems that it is primarily in the blue areas of states [and blue states themselves] that we find the worst condition, generally.

    This is not surprising.

    Since the ‘New’ Left began to gain control in urban and semi-urban areas in the 1960’s, spending on ‘community’, ‘diversity’ and other such programs has increased immensely, with such items as maintenance of roads, sidewalks, bridges, public buildings, etc. being defunded.

    This is all part of the Left’s plan to destroy the system from within – fund programs that cause societal divisions and let the structures crumble and collapse [and if some people die as a result, well…eggs for the Utopian omelet].

    The ‘New’ Left In America has also invaded the realm of the utilities by controlling them from within or via oversight commissions. In the latter, they have been able to prevent private utility companies from raising rates enough to fund the replacement of existing lines [be they water or sewer or electrical] and spending monies on research into more efficient methods of running such lines. The citizens have played right into the Left’s hands on this one because they want Cadillac utility service without paying for it’s implementation and upkeep.

    Do you know how many environmental studies it takes to lay a new sewer line – even if it is to run in the same path as an old one? I know for a fact that Boston, Massachusetts still in some areas of the city has hollowed-out logs as water pipes. Yet, they have dozens of taxpayer funded ‘community outreach’ programs.

    In these areas, ‘crumbling’ is a word you hear quite often.

    And don’t get me started on how the unions in these blue areas drive the cost overruns of all of the infrastructure projects that do get the green light.

    This is another reason, I think, we should retreat and regroup in several of the Several States – as far away as possible from these ‘crumbling’ monuments to Nihilism.

  4. They talk a good game about roads and bridges, but they spend all the money on toy trains and bike paths. Bike paths which, ironically enough, are usually built on former rail lines. Not that these idiots appreciate the deeper meaning of such.

  5. Not true, Squid. Right now we in Dallas are proud new owners of the ugliest public park imaginable.

    It literally has ping pong tables. Because those can’t even survive frat houses, so I’m sure they’ll survive the public outdoors.

  6. My BIL is a bridge inspector who contracts with the ID state gubmint. He explained to me what exactly happened with the I-35 bridge.

    The original design called for 1-inch thick gusset plates. At the time of construction, they substituted 1/2″ plates. I guess they figured it was good enough for gubmint work.

    That was sufficient at the time, but then they added an extra lane in both directions, traffic increased significantly, and at the time of the collapse, they had several tons of construction equipment on it.

    In other words, the bridge was just plain overloaded. It wasn’t a case of neglect or ill-repair. I’m glad to say that I got to publicly confound a lefty with this bit of info.

    Oddly enough, the Wiki entry for gusset plate is accurate on this point.

    The only reason to invest in infrastructure is if the lack of infrastructure is bottlenecking your economy. The interstate highway system is a good example of a true investment in your infrastructure, because trucks used to have to use those narrow state roads with a stop sign or stop light every few miles.

    Likewise, Hoover Dam provided a huge amount of electricity to a large area plus killed the native fish (bastards deserved it, trust me). Some of what the CCC did in the National Parks, such as build trails and tunnels, is stuff that we couldn’t do today because of the enviros. Go to Zion NP and see the 1.7 mile long tunnel that they blasted through the sandstone, plus the switchbacks to get to it, plus all of the trails that were gouged out of pristine rock.

    That’s all stuff that everyone can use: “general welfare,” I believe it’s called.

    On the other hand, debacles like the Big Dig and underpasses for Cute Endangered Critters are all the ROI we’re getting now.

    Effing fascists.

  7. A lot of us here in Minneapolis had crossed that bridge very close to the time it failed. For me, it was the day before.

  8. The Big Dig is a great infrastructure project, as an infrastructure project. As a study in cost over-runs or mismanagement or corrupt unions, it also excels. It is another great part of the Ted Kennedy legacy!

    I live in Mass – I won’t drive through the those tunnels if I can avoid it.

  9. Fortunately, reality has a way of wiping the board clean.

    We used to think the Left would eventually run out of other people’s money, but that was before the era of Ben Bernanke. So now we have to wait for reality, which the Left thinks is optional and they’ve opted out. The reality the Left sees is that it may finally be possible to actually wipe out all opposition from the Right. Rick Scott is the latest but probably not the last conservative to decide the Left just can’t be beat.

    Reality is never going to help us if the only reality on the Right is, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up.”

  10. In other words, the bridge was just plain overloaded. It wasn’t a case of neglect or ill-repair.

    My favorite rebuttal to my Moral Superiors with their Grand Plans is and always shall be: “Whatever. You statist fucks can’t even deliver the mail, or keep the fucking Interstate from falling into the fucking river.”

    No mere fact will ever take that away from me.

  11. Reality is never going to help us if the only reality on the Right is, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up.”

    I disagree. Reality will assert herself, good and hard. Don’t believe me? Ask the Argentines what they think.

  12. Ask the Argentines what they think.

    They’re not really known for learning from their brushes with reality.

  13. TeeJaw —

    I’m talking about the reality that takes the form of physical law. There ain’t no stopping the crash that’s coming.

    I actually can’t wait to pay off my school loans with a $100,000 bill, then use the $40,000 bill in change to buy a loaf a bread. Or maybe pay off my car loan, whichever I’m in the mood for.

  14. Reality has hit Argentina but what’s changed? D0 you see any surge of hope for the future down there? The left-wing Front for Victory is still in control having won a landslide victory in 2011. The party that passes for conservative are Peronistas. That’s the reality. If Democrats in power forever becomes the reality here we might as well move to Argentina.

    They do make a good Malbec.

  15. America’s a big place, and after the crash, some clever vetting will expose the leftists and neo-statists: they’ll be the ones offering to rush in and fix things.

    At which time we put them on cattle cars and rail them to the midwest. It’s about time those who support the founding principles and will rebuild using them as our guide get some good ocean front property from the deal.

  16. A lot of us here in Minneapolis had crossed that bridge very close to the time it failed. For me, it was the day before.

    For me, it was a few weeks.

    Of course, I also drove through that particular Big Dig tunnel the day before a big chunk of the ceiling came loose and crushed a car, not to mention also being in the air the morning of 9/11.

    If I were prone to heebie-jeebies, I’d never travel again…

  17. eCurmudgeon: Sounds like the Keepers of The Law Of Averages have you on their radar.

  18. If I were batting for the other team, so to speak, I’d pick now to mention that that data is one full Presidential administration out of date.

  19. Another meme I see popping up: how Florida, in its Tea Party zeal, is cuttingslashing (among other things): mosquito control.

    To which I have replied: yes, they cut in half some requests by the University of Florida to study mosquito reproduction and the efficacy of various control regimens. But Orange County (I did not exhaustively search because it’s not my fucking point to support) at least is shelling out effectively the same budget in 2013 for mosquito control as it did last year and the year before and the year before that. $1.75 million, in roundish numbers, just for this county. The amount of the cut that was being pointed to as being all TeaPartyishly self-destructive and indicative of cognitive dissonance and various other afflictions? A couple of hundred thou.

    Give us smarter opponents, please. The smartest of them are indulging themselves in deceptive, self-congratulatory quackery.

  20. Linky

    Why anyone takes Mother Jones seriously on any topic at all is an ongoing mystery to me, and does serious damage to my optimism for the future of our little species.