N.H. interstates rank 27th in national survey

Highways in New Hampshire rank 27th nationally for performance and cost-effectiveness, according to a report on the state of U.S. highway systems in 2008. This is a 12-spot gain from 2007, when the state’s highways were ranked 39th in the country. New Hampshire holds the highest ranking in New England, followed by Maine in 32nd place, according to the Reason Foundation’s 19th annual Highway Report. “New Hampshire improved 12 spots, from 39th to 27th, by repairing rural and urban interstate and rural primary pavements, reducing congestion and improving bridges, while holding cost increases to modest levels,” according to the report. Using 2008 data from state highway agencies – the most recent complete year for which data is available – the survey ranks states on the performance of their highway systems by indicators such as highway expenditures, pavement and bridge condition, urban interstate congestion and fatality rates. The study found North Dakota to have the most cost-effective highway system in 2008, with Rhode Island deemed the least cost-effective. According to the report, 2.6 percent of New Hampshire’s urban interstates and zero percent of its rural interstates are in poor condition. While its overall rating has improved, New Hampshire ranks 44th nationally in maintenance disbursements, or amount spent on state-controlled highways. New Hampshire spends $58,524 per mile, compared with only $4,017 per mile spent in North Dakota. Nationally, overall state-highway conditions improved from 2007-2008, which can partly be attributed to the economic downturn, says the report: High gas prices led to a drop in automobile travel of 3.5 percent from the prior year, resulting in less congestion and lower fatality rates nationwide (New Hampshire ranks 17th nationally in fatality rates).The 2008 data does not reflect recovery act funding, which poured millions into statewide highway rehabilitation and new construction projects, which “have given the states some breathing room in addressing long-delayed construction work, and may have led to better overall system performance,” according to the report.“But looking forward, the recession also slowed federal and state fuel tax revenues, perhaps making future repairs more difficult.” — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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