Report Shows Highs but Mostly Lows with State Highway System
If you believe taxpayers spend too much on Washington State highways and don't get enough in return, the author of a new report agrees with you.
The annual highway report by the Reason Foundation ranks the state 46th in the country for conditions and overall cost-effectiveness.
"We have 13 categories that look at spending, pavement condition, traffic, congestion and safety. So, we average those together, come up with an overall ranking and that's how we determine where states are." Report author Baruch Feigenbaum said.
He says highway costs in Washington are disproportionately higher than most other states.
"When we look at the four spending categories, Washington ranks in the bottom six in all of them, and dead last in capital and bridge disbursements which is a pretty important one. That's how much it costs to build a road and how much it costs to maintain it." Feigenbaum said.
Pavement conditions in Washington State are also problematic.
"The rural interstate pavement condition is 45th. So that's sixth worse. The urban principal arterial pavement condition is 44th. So that's seventh worst. And the traffic congestion is 35th which is no picnic either. So basically, Washington drivers are spending quite a bit for transportation system and not getting very good results." Feigenbaum said.
So why does Washington rank poorly in so many categories? Feigenbaum thinks it boils down to leadership with the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
"There have been several DOT directors over the past 10 years, and the system has gone a couple different directions. And I think there really needs to be a vision for exactly what the DOT wants to focus on. And I don't think that we're seeing that." Feigenbaum said.
On a high note, Washington does well with fatality rates which are lower than most of the country. The state ranks 4th with a low fatality rate on rural highways and 6th on urban highways.
"That indicates that Washington has taken it seriously for making sure there's traffic enforcement where it's needed. So, I think that's definitely something to highlight," Feigenbaum said. "I would also say another impressive ranking, I think, is the state is 15th for structurally deficient bridges. And when you think about the coastline and all the different bridges that you have in the Seattle area, ranking 15th is impressive."
Feigenbaum added that Washington State has been trending downward in the past few years. He says there are opportunities for improvement by implementing a cost-benefit method seen in other states and utilizing public-private partnerships with more efficiency.
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