West Virginia moved up three spots in the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report, from 33rd to 30th in the nation, even though the report noted that, “Overall, the system is in poor shape. West Virginia has the second highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, the sixth highest percentage of poor rural arterial pavement as well as poor Interstate pavement quality.”
The libertarian foundation, which Sourcewatch says is an associate member of the right-wing State Policy Network, which operates the Cardinal Institute in West Virginia, and is affiliated with ALEC, gave the state high marks for “cost effectiveness” — given because the state ranks low nationally in spending on highway construction and maintenance.
The report ranked West Virginia first among five states that spend less than $30,000 per mile of highway, at $20,844. The other lowest-spending states were Missouri, South Carolina, North Dakota and South Dakota.
By contrast, the report gave low cost-efficiency marks to Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, states that spend more than $250,000 per highway mile.
West Virginia ranked third lowest in the U.S. in capital disbursements, and fifth lowest in maintenance disbursements, the report found.
However, the report said that West Virginia’s cost-efficiency comes at a price.
“The state’s disbursements rank among the best in the country, but the poor quality of the infrastructure suggests West Virginia may need to direct more resources to its highway system,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and foundation senior managing director of transportation policy.
“To rise in the rankings, West Virginia needs to improve the condition of its pavement and its bridges,” Feigenbaum added. “West Virginia is one of only two states where more than 20% of the bridges are structurally deficient, which can be a safety concern.”
West Virginia ranked 49th nationally in percentage of structurally deficient bridges, 45th in rural arterial highway pavement condition, 33rd in urban interstate pavement condition, and 31st in rural interstate pavement condition, according to the report.
It ranked 38th in overall traffic fatality rates.
On the positive side, the report ranked West Virginia eighth in traffic congestion, with state commuters spending an average of 5.58 hours a year stuck in traffic jams.
By contrast, commuters in New Jersey, ranked 50th in traffic congestion, spend more than 86 hours a year stuck in traffic, according to the report.
Upgrading state roads has been a priority for Gov. Jim Justice, who backed sales of road bonds, federal GARVEE funding bonds, and Parkways Authority bonds to raise more than $2.5 billion for road building.
However, after several years of study, the state Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways in a 2015 report concluded that the state needed to double the roughly $1 billion a year of state and federal funds budgeted for highways construction and maintenance in order to complete and adequately maintain the state’s road system.
In the current state budget, state highways funding is about $1.38 billion.