Rhode Island’s highways slipped from No. 49 to last place in a national ranking based on performance and cost-effectiveness, according to a report by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think-tank.
The 19th annual report released last week explored the status of state-owned highway systems in the United States from 1984 to 2008. Neighboring state Connecticut ranked 41st and Massachusetts came in 44th place.
The foundation said Rhode Island did a poor job maintaining its highways when compared with its peers; more than half the state’s bridges are deficient or functionally obsolete. The Ocean State does second-worst in the nation for maintaining important roadways.
Rhode Island spent $401.2 million on its state highways in 2008, comparatively less than 42 other states; the foundation took into account the fact that some states maintain larger road systems.
Physically, the R.I. state-controlled highway system stretches 1,111 miles and is the second smallest in the nation after Hawaii.
The report stressed that its state-by-state ranking represented all state-controlled roadway infrastructure and should not be taken as an indictment of state highway departments but rather an overall view of all state agencies involved with maintaining roads and bridges.
Nevertheless, Rhode Island came in No. 3 for the fewest highway fatalities and No. 15 for its maintenance of narrow rural lanes.
Nationally, the report said the “overall condition of the state-owned highway system has never been in better shape.” The improvements came as states and the federal government pumped millions into roadways. The foundation said disbursements for state-administered highways increased about 8.4 percent, capital and bridge expenditures rose half a percent and administrative costs jumped 36 percent over 2007. Overall, maintenance expenditures though declined about 3.8 percent.
North Dakota continued to lead the nation in its highway cost-effectiveness and performance for the fourth-straight year. Montana followed in second place, with Kansas below.
Overall, California and Alaska joined Rhode Island at the bottom, coming in 48th and 49th respectively.