Study: Pa. ranks 35th nationwide for condition, cost-effectiveness of its highways | Thursday Morning Coffee

August 22, 2019 7:15 am

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Despite boasting the highest gas tax in the country, and highways that are perpetually under construction, Pennsylvania still finishes 35th in the nation for the overall cost-effectiveness and condition of its highway system, according to a new report by the libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation. On the upside, that’s six spots better than the foundation’s last report.

Overall, the state finished 25th for its overall fatality rate; 46th in structurally deficient bridges; 35th in traffic congestion; 32nd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 32nd in rural Interstate pavement condition, researchers found.

The Keystone State ranks 39th nationwide in total spending per-mile, and 38th in capital and bridge costs per-mile, researchers found.

(Source: The Reason Foundation)

Some other PA-Specific findings:

  • “Pennsylvania’s best rankings are in rural fatality rate (20th) and overall fatality rate (25th).
  • “Pennsylvania’s worst rankings are structurally deficient bridges (46th) and rural arterial pavement condition (41st).
  • “Pennsylvania’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 4th largest highway system in the country,” the study concluded.

“To improve in the rankings, Pennsylvania needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges and improve its rural arterial pavement condition. Pennsylvania is in the bottom 10 for structurally deficient bridges and rural arterial pavement condition,” the report concluded.

Despite opposition from legislative Republicans and some progressive Democrats, Gov. Tom Wolf is still pursuing approval of his legacy-burnishing, $4.5 billion “Restore PA” plan, a massive infrastructure improvement plan that relies on borrowing against future (and yet-to-be approved) natural gas severance tax revenues. Highway and bridge repairs are among the initiatives covered by that plan.

Governor Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference about Restore Pennsylvania and broadband internet access across the Commonwealth.

House Republicans, meanwhile, announced their own infrastructure push earlier this summer, with an eye toward returning findings this fall.

In recent years, Pennsylvania has replaced more than 550 structurally deficient bridges and advanced 2,600 transportation projects, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

But that was only enough to improve the commonwealth’s roads to a D+, according to the society’s 2018 report. Overall, Pennsylvania’s highways, dams, sewers, and tunnels earned a C- grade.

“Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Pennsylvania’s overall highway performance is better than Maryland (ranks 39th) and New Jersey (ranks 50th) but worse than West Virginia (ranks 16th),” Baruch Feigenbaum, the study’s lead author, and the assistant director of transportation at the Reason Foundation, said in a statement. “Pennsylvania is doing better than some comparable states such as New York (ranks 45th) but worse than other comparable states such as Ohio (ranks 18th).”

The Reason Foundation measured the state and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways across 13 categories. The conclusions are based “on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government for 2016 as well as urban congestion data from INRIX and bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2017,” the report says.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.