On Record: One scorecard

Pity poor Pennsylvania. For the second consecutive year and the fifth time in the decade, truckers responding to a survey of our sister publication, Overdrive, say the state has the worst roads in the country.

It’s not as if it doesn’t try. Indeed, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials contacted by Overdrive say the state spent $1.3 billion on highway and bridge projects in 2004. And at 29.8 cents per gallon, the state has one of the highest fuel tax rates in the nation – plus it just raised the state portion of this tax in 2005.

The issue in Pennsylvania – as it is in most highly urban areas in this country – is one of traffic. “If you’re a trucker, you’re going to end up in Pennsylvania at some point,” said Rich Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for PennDOT, when contacted by Overdrive. Even if taxpayers were ever in a sugar daddy mood the shear volume of vehicles on the road would continue to plague any DOT’s best efforts.

Take a look at the Infrastructure Report Card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers less than a year ago. Giving the entire country a dismal D when in came to roads, it cited these specifics about Pennsylvania:

  • While the state’s population grew 3 percent between 1990 and 2003, road traffic increased 24 percent in the same period.
  • 46 percent of its major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • Congestion in the Allentown area alone costs commuters $241 per person per year in excess fuel and lost time.

I’m not trying to make Pennsylvania the poster child of poor roads. Indeed as the chart below points out, it has plenty of company in the minds of truckers. And these same respondents even gave a tip of the hat to I-80 in Pennsylvania for most improved highway.

Instead the annual Overdrive survey points out that our roads are continually being graded as tires pass over each bump, crack and pothole. And while the new Federal highway bill assures $286.5 billion in funding over six years, it’s not enough. In light of how hard we use our roads, sometimes it’s difficult to know what will be enough.

How truckers rate state roads

Worst roads

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Missouri
  3. Louisiana
  4. Michigan
  5. California

Best roads

  1. Texas
  2. Florida
  3. Tennesee
  4. Georgia, Ohio (tie)
  5. Nevada, Virginia (tie)

Most improved highway

  1. I-40 Arkansas
  2. I-80 Pennsylvania
  3. I-30 Arkansas

Source: Overdrive, fall 2005 survey