Photo by William Tauro
By Bob Katzen
The Reason Foundation’s 2019 highway rankings were unveiled and determined that the Bay State ranked a lowly 46th in the nation in the category of overall highway performance and cost-effectiveness, a drop from 44th in the prior ranking.
The state did not do well in several categories including total costs per mile (48th), administrative costs per mile (48th), highway pavement condition (48th), traffic congestion (46th) and structurally deficient bridges (30th).
Its best rankings were in the categories of overall fatality rate (1st), rural fatality rate (1st) and urban fatality rate (12th).
“To improve in the rankings, Massachusetts needs to reduce its disbursements, improve its arterial pavement condition and reduce its traffic congestion,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the report at Reason Foundation. “The state is in the bottom 10 for all four disbursements metrics, and the bottom five for arterial pavement condition and traffic congestion. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Massachusetts’ overall highway performance is better than Rhode Island (48th), but worse than Connecticut (44th) and Vermont (19th).”
“Every Massachusetts lawmaker should read today’s report,” said Paul Craney, executive director of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. It shows unequivocally that throwing more money at the issue will not solve our transportation problems. More than likely, new revenues will go to fund an ever-expanding ‘Cadillac-style’ bureaucracy. This report makes perfectly clear that the commonwealth isn’t focused on cost.”
Craney continued, “Massachusetts taxpayers should be skeptical of any lawmaker who claims we need to ‘invest’ in our transportation without offering reforms. Doing that would just be throwing good money after bad. It’s like filling up a bucket with water that has holes in it. Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka owe it to the taxpayers to come up with a way to drive down these costs,” he concluded.
“The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is committed to maintaining a transportation system with the highest levels of quality and safety for the traveling public and continues to make strides to maximize cost-efficiency for the commonwealth’s taxpayers,” said the department’s spokesman Patrick Marvin.
Critics say the report uses outdated spending data that is nearly a decade old and is no longer accurate because there have been many improvements made within the last decade. They note the report itself also admits that numerous outside factors including terrain, climate, truck volumes, urbanization, system age, budget priorities, unit cost differences, state budget circumstances and management/maintenance philosophies may be impacting rankings.
Critics also point out that the report notes that Massachusetts’ roads have a low fatality rate and are the safest in the country.