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Reason report: U.S. highway conditions worsening in important categories

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Reason report: u.s. highway conditions worsening in important categories
This map from the Reason Foundation report on America's road shows how state fared in the rankings. (Courtesy: REASON FOUNDATION)

LOS ANGELES — After decades of incremental progress in several key categories, Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report finds the nation’s highway conditions are deteriorating, especially in a group of problem-plagued states struggling to repair deficient bridges, maintain Interstate pavement and reduce urban traffic congestion.

“In looking at the nation’s highway system as a whole, there was a decades-long trend of incremental improvement in most key categories, but the overall condition of the highway system has worsened in recent years,” says Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “This year we see some improvement on structurally deficient bridges, but pavement conditions on rural and urban highways are declining, the rise in traffic fatalities is worrying, and we aren’t making needed progress on traffic congestion in our major cities.”

The 24th Annual Highway Report, based on data that states submitted to the federal government, ranks each state’s highway system in 13 categories, including traffic fatalities, pavement condition, congestion, spending per mile, administrative costs and more. This edition of the Annual Highway Report uses state-submitted highway data from 2016, the most recent year with complete figures currently available, along with traffic congestion and bridge data from 2017.

North Dakota ranks first in the Annual Highway Report’s overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings of state highway systems for the second year in a row. North Dakota’s rural and urban Interstate pavement conditions both rank in the top 10 and the state has kept its per-mile costs down.  Virginia jumps an impressive 25 spots in the rankings—from 27th overall in the previous report—into second-place in performance and cost-effectiveness.  Missouri, Maine and Kentucky round out the top five states.

The state highway systems in New Jersey (50th), Alaska (49th), Rhode Island (48th), Hawaii (47th), Massachusetts (46th) and New York (45th) rank at the bottom of the nation in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. Despite spending more money per mile than any other state, New Jersey has the worst urban traffic congestion and among the worst urban Interstate pavement conditions in the country.

The study finds pavement conditions on both urban interstates and rural interstates are deteriorating, with the percentage of urban Interstate mileage in poor condition increasing in 29 of 50 states. One-third, 33 percent, of the nation’s urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is concentrated in just five states: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, and New York.

It’s not just urban Interstates with the rougher pavement, however, the Annual Highway Report finds the percentage of rural arterial principal roads in poor condition at its worst levels since 2000.

Similarly, the study’s three traffic fatality categories —overall, urban and rural—all show more fatalities in 2016 than in any year since 2007.

The most positive news is on bridges, where 39 states lowered the percentage of bridges deemed structurally deficient. Unfortunately, 18 percent or more of bridges remain structurally deficient in these five states: Iowa, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Traffic congestion remains about the same from the previous report, with Americans spending an average of 35 hours a year stuck in traffic. Drivers in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia and Massachusetts experience the longest delays due to urban traffic congestion in their metro regions.

The Annual Highway Report finds states disbursed about $139 billion for state-controlled highways and arterials in 2016, a four percent decrease from approximately $145 billion spent in 2015.

“Some may point to the slight decrease in overall state highway spending in 2016 as a cause of the lack of improvement in key highway metrics, but 21 states made overall progress in 2016. Examining the 10-year average of state overall performance data indicates that the national system performance problems are largely concentrated in the bottom 10 states,” Feigenbaum said. “Toward the bottom of the rankings, you have highly populated states, like last-place New Jersey, along with Massachusetts, New York, and California to a lesser extent, that are spending a lot but often failing to keep up with traffic congestion and road maintenance. There are also a few very problematic low-population states like Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii and Alaska, which contribute an outsized share of the nation’s structurally deficient bridges, poor pavement conditions, and high administrative costs—money that doesn’t make it to roads.”

New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut spent the most on their highways on a per-mile basis, with each state spending more than $200,000 per mile of highway it controls. In contrast, Missouri, which ranks third overall in performance and cost-effectiveness, did so while spending just $23,534 per mile of highway it controls.

Massachusetts ranks low in the overall rankings but shows the nation’s lowest traffic fatality rate, while South Carolina reports the highest.

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The Nation

A new recipe: Guy Fieri bites into disaster relief with help from Freightliner Trucks

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Guy Fieri stands by his Freightliner truck
Guy Fieri, restaurateur and TV host, is taking his Knuckle Sandwich organization on the road with Freightliner Trucks to deploy a new mobile kitchen to support disaster relief efforts. (Courtesy: Freightliner Trucks)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Guy Fieri is cooking up a new recipe but this time, it’s not one dish at a time in one of his famous restaurants. Instead, he’s serving first responders with a new mobile kitchen hauled by a custom Freightliner crew-cab tractor.

The renowned chef, restaurateur, TV host and producer is taking his Knuckle Sandwich organization on the road with Freightliner Trucks to deploy a new mobile kitchen to support disaster-relief efforts. Freightliner has donated the use of a new customized SportChassis Freightliner M2 112 tractor powered by a 470hp Detroit DD13 engine.

Fieri’s fully equipped 48-foot mobile kitchen includes multiple cook surfaces, ovens, deep fryers, a smoker, an ice machine, abundant cold storage, a 30-quart mixer, a 12-kW generator and more. The new kitchen will join his fleet of two smaller 24-foot cooking trailers.

Fieri was inspired to assist in disaster relief after he helped feed thousands of workers and displaced residents during the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Northern California, which devastated more than 6,500 homes. Since then, Fieri has supported numerous disaster locations and served more than 120,000 meals.

“I’m delighted that Freightliner stepped up to help serve the dedicated first-responders who help save lives and provide relief during times of extreme need,” said Fieri. “When we get the call, a reliable and comfortable tow vehicle is essential in getting us on site efficiently and safely. Freightliner has the right truck to do that, hands down!”

“Guy’s passion to help first responders during these extremely difficult situations is inspiring to the Freightliner team,” said Kelly Gedert, vice president of market development for Freightliner Trucks. “We jumped at the opportunity to partner with Guy in this effort; and the Freightliner M2 112 will be right at home among first responders who depend on their Freightliner M2-based fire trucks, ambulances and utility trucks.”

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The Nation

Moving America forward: Sammy Brewster is dedicated to safety

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Sammy Brewster
Sammy Brewster, Georgia (Courtesy: Trucking Moves America Forward)

To celebrate the modern-day achievements of African Americans in the trucking industry, Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) has selected four drivers who exemplify excellence in trucking. They were selected because of their professionalism and dedication to their jobs, commitment to safety and continuous efforts to move America forward every day.

The drivers are being featured on TMAF’s blog and social media pages throughout the month of February as well as on The Trucker.com. The stories highlight the drivers’ accomplishments and safety records and share the personal story of each driver. This is the fourth of four features in the series.

Moving America forward: Sammy Brewster is dedicated to safety

Sammy Brewster, a professional truck driver for ABF Freight for the past 12 years, has been a truck driver for 29 years. He resides in Powder Springs, Georgia.

Brewster, is a second-generation truck driver. During an interview with TMAF, Sammy said, “I got my start at an early age by driving for my father. He also ran a small family logging business.”

When asked what Brewster loves most about trucking, he told TMAF that he loves the free feeling of being out on the open road and the opportunity to travel and see different parts of the country. Most importantly, Brewster said, it has been a great support system to raise his family.

Brewster’s son, who just got his trucking license last year, is continuing in his father and grandfather’s footsteps as a third-generation truck driver.

Prior to joining the trucking industry, Brewster served in the U.S. Army. Brewster said that dedication to safety is one of the lessons instilled in him during his service. He carries that lesson into his job as a truck driver.

Prioritizing and promoting safety are essential for Brewster while on and off the road. Because of his strong safety record, Brewster has received many safe driving awards, including the 11-year safe driving certificate and the 10-year Safety Performance Award from ABF Freight.

Brewster was appointed as a member of ATA’s 2019–2020 America’s Road Team. He also serves as member of ATA’s Share the Road highway safety program, helping to educate motorists about road safety during heavy traffic weekends, such as Memorial Day.

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Backlogs expected as weekly closure of eastbound Tuscarora Tunnel begins Sunday

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Backlogs expected as weekly closure of eastbound tuscarora tunnel begins sunday
All drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are advised to expect delays while the eastbound Tuscarora Tunnel is closed for improvements and modernization. The tunnel will be closed every Sunday night and reopen at noon Friday each week through late June.

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission advises motorists traveling in both directions on Interstate 76 to be prepared for an ongoing closure of the eastbound tube of the Tuscarora Tunnel starting at 9 p.m. Sun., Feb. 23, and ending at noon Friday, Feb. 28.

The weekly tunnel closure, which will impact traffic in both directions in Franklin County, will continue until June 26; some schedule modifications may occur due to weather conditions or during holiday periods.

Eastbound traffic will be directed into one lane and then cross over to continue through one lane of the westbound tunnel. Motorists in both directions should be alert for a continuous single-lane traffic pattern approaching the tunnel and bidirectional traffic within the tunnel.

Additionally, no overwidth commercial vehicles will be allowed in the tunnel during bidirectional traffic patterns.

Motorists should be prepared for slow moving or stopped traffic approaching the Tuscarora Tunnel in both directions. Backlogs are expected daily in both directions beginning around mid-day and lasting into the evening hours. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has installed a smart work zone as part of this project which monitors current traffic conditions and displays travel times and slow or stopped traffic messages on Portable Changeable Message signs placed in advance of the tunnel in both directions.

Impacted motorists should visit www.511pa.com/tuscarora to view travel alerts and current travel times for the project and to find suggested detour routes.

Drivers are advised to turn on headlights, slow to the posted work-zone speed limit of 40 mph and keep an adequate distance from the vehicle ahead. Never pass inside the tunnel. Drivers who experience car trouble and cannot safely exit the tunnel should stay in the vehicle, put on the hazard lights, dial *11 from a mobile phone and wait for assistance. Tunnel personnel will monitor closed-circuit cameras and send help for disabled vehicles.

The Tuscarora Tunnel is located on I-76 between mileposts 186 and 187, between the Fort Littleton Interchange (Exit 180) and the Willow Hill Interchange (Exit 189) at the Huntingdon and Franklin county lines.

The tunnel crossovers are necessary as part of a four-year $110 million project to improve and modernize the Tuscarora Tunnel. The major tasks to be completed include the removal of ceiling slabs, a new ventilation system, new membrane waterproofing and the replacement of walkways, concrete barriers and the drainage system in the tunnels. Some enhancements have already been completed in the westbound tunnel, such as additional lighting, in-pavement lights and overhead lane-control signs.

The Tuscarora Tunnel eastbound tube opened in 1940 and the westbound tube opened in 1968. The two tunnels were last renovated in the 1980s. For more information about the Tuscarora Tunnel Rehabilitation Project visit www.PATurnpiketunnels.com.

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