According to a new report from the libertarian Reason Foundation, Connecticut’s highway system ranks near the bottom of the states. Connecticut got dinged for urban congestion, deficient bridges, and actually scored worst in the nation when it comes to administrative costs per mile. If you drive, that’s probably not surprising. So what should we do about it?
There are a couple of ways to look at this report. One is to refute it, which is what Streetsblog, a site focusing on “sustainable transportation and livable communities,” did. The report has made a splash in the media, they say, but its claims haven’t really been evaluated properly. They pointed out the obvious, which is that states with higher cost-of-living perform worse in cost-per-mile and administrative costs. This is why a state like Georgia can do relatively well while northeastern states, California, and Hawaii sit near the bottom. Also, the report seems to favor rural over urban by giving weight to urban congestion, another reason why northeastern states do poorly. Yes, we have lots of cars and people, and not a lot of space. That isn’t news.
It’s also interesting that the two areas where Connecticut did very well, poor condition of roads in rural areas (1st) and fatality rate (2nd), weren’t enough to bump us up in the rankings. The paper claims that each of the 11 factors measured were weighted equally, but it seems like the measures chosen were designed to make small, rural states look good and densely-populated urban states look bad. It’s also worth pointing out that Reason is a libertarian think tank funded by the Koch brothers, among others, which means it becomes more difficult to separate the facts from the partisan lens through which they’re seen. Therefore, take the report with a grain of salt.
That doesn’t mean it can or should be completely ignored, of course. There are plenty of problems with Connecticut’s highways. Drivers know that the highways are often clogged, especially in Fairfield County, and that often the roads aren’t in great shape. The report also highlights deficient bridges, which were the subject of a report DOT reports, but the news still isn’t all that comforting.
Another trouble area the Reason report pointed out was the surprising jump in administrative costs per mile. Connecticut ranked last in 2009, with administrative, research and planning costs totaling over $81,000 per mile. This, as the report mentions, can vary wildly from year to year, but that’s still a remarkable number. Total costs per mile were nothing to be proud of, either. These high costs, coupled with congested highways in urban areas, deficient bridges, and poor road conditions, beg the question: why are we paying so much?