Study: Pa. ranks 35th nationwide for condition, cost-effectiveness of its highways | Thursday Morning Coffee

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Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Despite boasting the highest gas tax in the country, and highways that are perpetually under construction, Pennsylvania still finishes 35th in the nation for the overall cost-effectiveness and condition of its highway system, according to a new report by the libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation. On the upside, that’s six spots better than the foundation’s last report.

Overall, the state finished 25th for its overall fatality rate; 46th in structurally deficient bridges; 35th in traffic congestion; 32nd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 32nd in rural Interstate pavement condition, researchers found.

The Keystone State ranks 39th nationwide in total spending per-mile, and 38th in capital and bridge costs per-mile, researchers found.

(Source: The Reason Foundation)

Some other PA-Specific findings:

  • “Pennsylvania’s best rankings are in rural fatality rate (20th) and overall fatality rate (25th).
  • “Pennsylvania’s worst rankings are structurally deficient bridges (46th) and rural arterial pavement condition (41st).
  • “Pennsylvania’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 4th largest highway system in the country,” the study concluded.

“To improve in the rankings, Pennsylvania needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges and improve its rural arterial pavement condition. Pennsylvania is in the bottom 10 for structurally deficient bridges and rural arterial pavement condition,” the report concluded.

Despite opposition from legislative Republicans and some progressive Democrats, Gov. Tom Wolf is still pursuing approval of his legacy-burnishing, $4.5 billion “Restore PA” plan, a massive infrastructure improvement plan that relies on borrowing against future (and yet-to-be approved) natural gas severance tax revenues. Highway and bridge repairs are among the initiatives covered by that plan.

Governor Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference about Restore Pennsylvania and broadband internet access across the Commonwealth.

House Republicans, meanwhile, announced their own infrastructure push earlier this summer, with an eye toward returning findings this fall.

In recent years, Pennsylvania has replaced more than 550 structurally deficient bridges and advanced 2,600 transportation projects, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

But that was only enough to improve the commonwealth’s roads to a D+, according to the society’s 2018 report. Overall, Pennsylvania’s highways, dams, sewers, and tunnels earned a C- grade.

“Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Pennsylvania’s overall highway performance is better than Maryland (ranks 39th) and New Jersey (ranks 50th) but worse than West Virginia (ranks 16th),” Baruch Feigenbaum, the study’s lead author, and the assistant director of transportation at the Reason Foundation, said in a statement. “Pennsylvania is doing better than some comparable states such as New York (ranks 45th) but worse than other comparable states such as Ohio (ranks 18th).”

The Reason Foundation measured the state and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways across 13 categories. The conclusions are based “on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government for 2016 as well as urban congestion data from INRIX and bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2017,” the report says.

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Our Stuff.

Our Stuff.
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Stephen Caruso checked out a House hearing on a new pipeline safety commission.

Elizabeth Hardison looks at the results of the meeting of a new statewide task force on suicide prevention, which includes a statewide listening tour this fall.

On our Commentary PageAnwar Curtis finds Harrisburg’s African-American community enjoying a grand weekend in the sun, even in these waning days of summer. And Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene, explains why Pennsylvania can’t wait any longer on expanding broadband access statewide. And there’s our take on a unique effort in York County, featuring two former Pa. governors, to restore public trust in government.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (Image via Flickr Commons)

Elsewhere.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney faces a ‘defining moment’ as he looks to appoint a new city police commissioner to replace Richard RossThe Inquirer reports.
It’s still unclear whether Allegheny County Council has the votes to authorize a new police review board, the Post-Gazette reports.
An environmental advocacy group says the state should foot the bill to help stop the flow of raw sewage into the Susquehanna River, PennLive reports.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.talked guns, impeachment and Medicare for All during a town hall in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

Writing at WHYY-FM, Solomon Jones argues that Philadelphia’s next police commissioner should be a black woman.
Allegheny County’s efforts to fight fraud ‘reek of corruption,’ independent DA candidate Lisa Middleman tells WESA-FM.
The Scranton mayoral race is getting crowded, the Times-Tribune reports.
Stateline.org goes deep on the ongoing impact of the Trump trade war on America’s farmers.
Because of course — former GOP U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta has launched an immigration-focused PAC, PoliticsPa reports.
Politico profiles the ‘surprising surge,’ of Democratic 2020 hopeful Andrew Yang.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf heads to suburban Philly to talk about the state’s efforts to address PFAS contamination in water supplies in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, 
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Heavy Rotation.
Here’s the aptly titled ‘Happy,’ by Rae & Christian, with an assist from Mark Foster.

Thursday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
Baltimore 
took another one off K.C. on Wednesday. The Birds beat the Royals 8-1 at home at Camden Yards. Yes, the Orioles are still an atrocious 32.5 games back. But, hey, a win’s a win, right?

And now you’re up to date. 

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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