Category Archives: Transportation

17th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems (1984-2006)

Source: Reason Foundation, 2008

The Reason Foundation’s 17th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems measures the performance of all state-owned roads and highways from 1984 to 2006. The study calculates the effectiveness and performance of each state in 12 different categories, including traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance costs, and administrative costs.

North Dakota’s state-owned highway system is the nation’s most cost-effective, an honor the state has held since 2001. North Dakota finished first, or tied for first, in five of the report’s 12 categories, including rural interstate condition. Montana jumped from 5th to 2nd in the overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings. New Mexico continues to show marked improvement. The state ranked 27th in 2000, and was up to 3rd overall in 2006. Wyoming moves up from 7th in 2005 to 4th overall. Kansas rounds out the top five.
New Jersey, which has ranked last every year since 2000, continues to be the nation’s least cost-effective and worst-performing road system. Despite having the nation’s 4th smallest state-owned highway system, New Jersey finished dead last in five of the study’s 12 categories. Several of the least populous states performed very poorly, and make up the rest of the bottom five: Alaska (49th), Rhode Island (48th), Hawaii (47th), and New Hampshire (46th).

Texas, home to the nation’s largest state-controlled highway system, ranked 12th overall in performance and cost-effectiveness. South Carolina, owner of the country’s 5th largest system, ranks 6th overall. Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Virginia are some of the other top-performing large states.

As traffic jams in large cities escalate and spread to smaller areas, 35 states are now reporting that at least 40 percent of their urban interstate highways are congested, up from 31 states the previous year, according to an annual study of the nation’s highways. With urban congestion even hitting South Dakota, the list of states without any clogged interstates is down to just three: Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
See also:
Overall Rankings: State-by-State Comparison of This Year and Last Year
Urban Congestion Rankings
Deficient Bridges Rankings
Traffic Fatalities Rankings
Google Map with State-by-State Data
Full Tables (Excel)

State Transportation Statistics 2007

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2008

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), presents State Transportation Statistics 2007, a statistical profile of transportation in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This is the fifth annual edition of the State Transportation Statistics, and a companion document to the National Transportation Statistics (NTS), which is updated quarterly on the BTS website.

Like the previous editions, this document presents transportation information from RITA/BTS, other federal government agencies, and other national sources. A picture of the states’ transportation infrastructure, freight movement and passenger travel, system safety, vehicles, transportation related economy and finance, energy usage and the environment is presented in tables covering the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Tables have been updated with the most recently available data.

Included in this State Transportation Statistics 2007 report is a brief description of the data sources used and a glossary of terms. Also contained in this publication is a summary table that displays the approximate timing of future data releases and contact information for each state’s department of transportation.

States Worry About Dwindling Road Funds

Source: Stephen C. Fehr, Stateline.org, July 23, 2008

The two main sources of state transportation money are falling precipitously this summer as Americans cut back on driving, threatening to delay or halt crucial work on roads, rails and bridges and breeding an election-year issue for Congress and the presidential candidates.

Both the federal Highway Trust Fund and state road funds rely on federal and state taxes collected on each gallon of gasoline, but revenues are dropping because people are not buying as much gas now that prices top $4 a gallon. The slippage exacerbates a looming crisis with the $40 billion federal highway fund, already projected to run out of money before the start of the next budget year Oct. 1.

Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges

Source: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, July 2008

From the summary:
Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges offers the latest on the conditions, age and costs to repair and modernize the nation’s 590,000 bridges as well as key examples showcasing new inspection and construction technologies. Among its key findings:
• Within the next 15 years almost half of the nation’s bridges will exceed 50 years of age, exceeding the life span for which they were designed. Even now, one in five are over 50.
• With age comes decay. One in four of our bridges are rated as deficient, either in need of repair or in need of widening to handle today’s traffic.
• New estimates released this week show that more than $140 billion will be needed to fix them.
• Soaring construction costs have whittled away the ability of states to address preventive maintenance and new bridge construction.

Key solutions to address the growing number of “baby boomer” bridges include: increased investment; research and innovation; systematic maintenance; more public awareness; and additional financing options.

The Road Less Taken: Creating Fairer Taxes, As Well As Better Highways

Source: Michael J. Cassidy and Sara Okos, Commonwealth Institute, May 2008

Governor Kaine and the General Assembly have a major crisis on their hands: they have a comprehensive plan to fix the Commonwealth’s transportation woes, but no money to pay for it. Funding schemes under consideration offer a variety of options including a range of tax increases. But another problem looms if the proposals currently being circulated are adopted: Virginia will have unintentionally hurt its low- to moderate-income wage earners more than higher income workers.
See also:
Press release

Virginia: Taxes Won’t Get Larger, But the Potholes Will
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, July 18, 2008

Off Track

Source: Colby Itkowitz and Kathryn A. Wolfe, CQ Weekly, Vol. 66 no. 28, July 14, 2008
(subscription required)

Gas is above $4 a gallon; airlines are flying less and charging more. So why isn’t this a golden moment for passenger rail. Which is “greener” and can move people for less? Because Amtrak’s crumbling infrastructure, high labor costs, and staggering maintenance mean it can barely maintain existing routes.

High Flyers: How Private Jet Travel Is Straining the System, Warming the Planet, and Costing You Money

Source: Chuck Collins, Sarah Anderson, Dedrick Muhammad, Robert Weissman, and Sam Bollier, Institute for Policy Studies, June 2008

The private jet is one of the most powerful symbols of extreme inequality. While flying has become more costly, uncomfortable and degrading for the general public, the growing class of the ultra-rich are flying high in the comfort of their own aircraft. This sharp division is not merely a symbolic matter. The private jet boom imposes real costs on taxpayers, shareholders, and other air travelers, while undermining our environment, social cohesion, and public security.

1. Private jet travel has expanded dramatically.
2. Private jets impose costs and burdens on the rest of us.
A. Costs to the Environment
B. Costs to Taxpayers
C. Costs to Corporate Stakeholder
D. Costs to Commercial Air Travelers
E. Costs to Public Security and Social Cohesion
3. Congress and shareholders should act to restore fairness to the system and limit the burdens of private jet travel on the environment, taxpayers, shareholders, and other travelers.
4. Driving the expansion of private jets are extreme economic inequalities in the U.S. economy. The concentration of wealth and power must be addressed directly through public policies that tax the top and encourage investments that create a healthy economy with equality of opportunity.

State Transportation Woes Have Common Thread

Source: Tax Justice Digest, Citizens for Tax Justice, June 20, 2008

North Carolina is suffering from an increase in the cost of asphalt. Asphalt is made of petroleum derivatives, and its cost has increased 25% since the end of 2006. This is causing the state to cut back on road repaving projects which are likely to cost more money to accomplish the longer they go unrepaired.

In Missouri, the state has a projected $1 billion transportation fund deficit. It is only expected to be able to meet 40% of obligations starting July 2009. In spite of this, all three major candidates for Missouri Governor pledge not to raise the state motor fuels tax. The two Republican gubernatorial contenders, Sarah Steelman and Kenny Hulshof suggest dedicating general funds revenue to transportation and privatizing some state roadways respectively.

Virginia is currently confronting a “growing bridge and road maintenance shortfall” which is depriving money from road construction. Governor Tim Kaine has recently released a proposal to raise vehicle registration fees and sales taxes on vehicles, while keeping the state fuel tax unchanged.

These states have in common a tendency to tinker around the edges of transportation funding policy while failing to address the taboo topic of gas taxes. The root cause of these transportation troubles is that the gas tax has been kept too low to finance the transportation needs in all these states.

A Bridge to Somewhere: Rethinking American Transportation for the 21st Century

Source: Robert Puentes, Brookings Institution, June 12, 2008

From the summary:
If transportation policy is going to achieve critical national objectives around economic competiveness, environmental sustainability, and social equity in an era of fiscal constraints it will require a 21st-century transportation vision.

By concentrating reforms on three major policy areas–federal leadership, empowerment of metropolitan areas, and optimization of the program–federal transportation policy can move from the anachronistic structure that exists today to something that actually works for the nation and metropolitan America.
Download Chapters I-II
Download Chapters III-IV
Download Chapters V-VI
Download Chapters VII-VIII