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Pennsylvania's Highways Ranked Among Worst In Nation

Pennsylvania’s highways among the worst in the nation, according to a report released Thursday by a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The commonwealth has dropped from 40th to 41st in “overall highway performance and cost effectiveness,” according to the Reason Foundation’s 21st annual highway report.

David Hartgen, lead researcher and professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, said the state’s high percentage of deficient bridges, narrow rural lanes and a high fatality rate has caused its rankings to slip.

“Their progress has not been as significant as other states and so they’re losing ground relevant to other states even though they’re slowly going ahead,” he said.

According to Hartgen, the state’s budget is fairly average, ranking 26th in total disbursements per mile, despite having the 5th largest highway system in the country.

For the most part, Hartgen said Pennsylvania’s highway problems aren’t related to funding, but the forces of nature.

“They have of course their geography. They can’t change that. They can’t change the weather. They can’t really change the truck traffic and the through traffic, so they have to live with those,” Hartgen said. “The challenge is going to be how to improve that system with an average budget.”

And, he said it can be done — with proper management and a little creativity.

“Not every road needs work every year,” Hartgen said. “And so, by focusing on trying to catch pavements at the fair level before they drop down to poor condition, they may be able to stretch their dollars further.”

Last year, the state passed Act 89, which would invest about $2.1 billion in more than 900 highway and bridge restoration projects. Additionally, more than $600 million dollars will also be added to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation budget to fund more than 250 road upgrades.

According to the report, Pennsylvania’s best rankings were “rural interstate pavement condition (20th), capital-bridge disbursements per mile (21st) and urban interstate pavement conditions (23rd).”

Hartgen said the top highway systems are found in mostly rural states without congestion issues, including Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Carolina and Kansas. New Jersey, Alaska and Hawaii had the poorest rankings.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."
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