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Published: Thursday, 6/28/2007

Ohio's highway upkeep listed 16th

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ohio scores well but Michigan rates poorly in a libertarian think tank's cost-effectiveness analysis of the 50 states' highway networks for 2005 that is to be issued today.

Using pavement condition, financial, and accident data the states report to the Federal Highway Administration, the Reason Foundation said Ohio has the 16th most effective highway maintenance and improvement program, while Michigan's was ranked 42nd.

The report singled out Ohio, along with Georgia and Texas, as larger states that have done relatively well in maintaining and improving their highway networks, while conceding that "challenging climate and traffic conditions, along with relatively high unit costs, have contributed to Michigan's overall rating."

While acknowledging that the Ohio data occurred during a year when Ohio roadways were managed by a previous administration, Scott Varner, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the report both "shows the challenges we have with a large transportation system" and validates a Strickland administration priority toward maintaining current routes before building new ones.

In 2005, Ohio was one of 22 states that reported no rural Interstate Highway System mileage rated "poor," while the 1.41 percent of its urban interstates so rated was 14th best in the nation.

Michigan's rural interstate pavement conditions were listed as fifth-worst in the country, with 7.72 percent rated "poor," and the 12.87 percent of its urban freeways listed as "poor" ranked 36th.

The report identified congestion as a problem in Ohio and Michigan, but rated both states among the best for having the fewest traffic fatalities on state highways.

Michigan's 1.085 highway deaths per 100 million vehicle-miles was eighth best in the country, while Ohio's 1.197 was 14th.

Bill Shreck, an MDOT spokesman, questioned his state's rating, saying Michigan's safety record is even better than reported and that some of its other data don't match state statistics for the same factors.

He also observed that Ohio collects 9 cents more per gallon of motor fuel than Michigan does, which may account for part of Ohio's higher pavement ratings.

The Reason Foundation analysis reported that Michigan spent about $253,000 per mile of state-maintained highway during 2005, compared with about $123,000 per mile in Ohio.

One factor not cited in the pavement-condition data is that Michigan allows significantly heavier trucks than Ohio on many roads.

Trucks weighing up to 154,000 pounds are allowed on most Michigan freeways and trunk lines, whereas in Ohio such trucks are only allowed on certain routes near the Michigan border, and 80,000 pounds is the standard maximum weight on all other Ohio roads except for the Ohio Turnpike.

Nationally, the Reason Foundation reported that while pavement conditions have improved in recent years, 52 percent of urban interstates are now congested.

North Dakota had the best highway-system rating, while New Jersey's was worst.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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