Posted by rnikolewski in News on July 2nd, 2013
FOURTH IN THE NATION: A national survey gives New Mexico high marks for its road conditions.
New Mexico often finishes at or near the bottom of many national studies but, hey, we can celebrate the fact that a report on statewide highway performance and efficiency rates the Land of Enchantment as the fourth-best in the country.
The Annual Highway Report put out by the Reason Foundation ranks 11 different factors into its study that’s released every Fourth of July weekend and in this year’s rankings, New Mexico is rated as the No. 1 state in two categories: urban interstate pavement condition and rural interstate condition.
“It’s a relatively large system” in New Mexico, said Dr. David Hartgen, the author of the study and emeritus transportation professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “The budget (in New Mexico) is actually a little less than most states but despite that, they’ve produced a pretty good system … These guys are holding their own, no doubt about that. Good job.”
A total of 12,166 miles of highway are under state control in New Mexico and the only two categories that New Mexico finished below 20th in the nation were “Administrative Disbursements by Mile” (finishing 37th) and “Fatality Rate” (37th).
The fatality figure is made up of the total number of deaths per mile on the state’s roads. It could be explained by drivers going too fast through the state’s vast distances and/or New Mexico’s persistent problem with drunk or impaired drivers.
Hartgen told New Mexico Watchdog in a telephone interview Tuesday (July 2) that the disbursements figure is often tied to bonds and capital projects “that haven’t gone out the door” and “I suspect that’s an administrative issue and we could see that number go down” in time.
Overall, the state that finished first was North Dakota. (What is it with North Dakota? They seem to finish first in so many national studies.) Kansas finished second and Wyoming came in third.
The bottom five?
New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Alaska.
New Mexico finished fourth in the study last year as well.
“New Mexico has historically done very well,” said Hartgen, who has collected data for the Reason Foundation study for each of its 20 years. “This is a good rating … Accessibility is a lot better. What used to be a full day’s drive in New Mexico can now be done in half that time.”
Be glad you’re not a taxpaying driver in New Jersey. According to the study, the Garden State spends a staggering $1.2 million per mile on its state-controlled roads — nearly twice as much as the next-highest state, California ($679,000).
As for the worst states in the nation for highway traffic? California, Minnesota, Maryland and Connecticut reported more than two-thirds of their urban interstates were congested.
Hartgen says his research shows that despite the complaints about highway travel and infrastructure, the condition of the nation’s roads overall has improved in the past two decades.
“It’s hard to believe it when you hit a pothole or see a bridge in Washington collapse, but the nation’s roads are getting better,” Hartgen said. “There are still several states struggling and plenty of problem areas. But you can make the case that overall America’s roads and bridges have never been in better shape.”
Click here to see the entire report.
Update: We e-mailed the New Mexico Department of Transportation and Secretary Tom Church replied, “Gov. Martinez has tasked the NMDOT to develop more efficient use of funds. In the past three years we have returned over $270 million to the roads though better management of finances. This includes closing projects quicker to release obligation authority, taking advantage of lower interest rate markets for debt management, and focusing on asset management strategies such as pavement preservation.”