SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary

We Are Not #1!


October 06, 2019
Sunday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Face it, every time you see one of those lists of statewide rankings on-line you always click it to see where Alaska is. It's nice to know how we rank "incomewise" or "happywise" or "howcuteareyourapexpredatorswise."

jpg  Dave Kiffer

So when I saw that QuoteWizard Insurance News (a subsidiary of Lending Tree) listing the "States With the Worst Road Infrastructure" I just knew that we were National Champions again!!!

I'm mean, can there possibly be some other state that has more PMP (potholes per mile) than Alaska???

The Alaska State Tree is a traffic cone!

"Road Maintenance" is a season here!!

Our roads are in such bad shape that our pot holes have pot holes!!!

We totally have this ranking in the (air) bag!!!!!

Or do we??

Let's roll tape on the QuoteWizard rankings.

First, a little context.  QuoteWizard notes that nationwide more than $231 billion dollars is spent to repair roadways. That number may seem high, but not when you realize that the State of Alaska has spent tens of millions of dollars just to keep Tongass Avenue relentlessly torn up all year long for the past 60 years.

But that is not the only cost, according to the insurance company. Some $120 billion dollars is spent each year by car owners repairing the damage caused to their cars by poorly maintained roads. This year alone, about half of that was spent because of the Denali-sized pot holes on the Front-Mill-Stedman reconstruction alone.

So, although it may not seem like it, every time you get in your car you are truly driving on a $300+ billion dollar Yellow Brick Road. Doesn't that make you feel so much better? I thought so.

But I digress.

How do our supercaligragilisticexpealidocious pot holes stand up? We are the champions, right?

In a word, no.

Not even close.

The Wonderful QuoteWizard of Oz has measured the percentage of roads in poor condition, the percentage of bridges that are "structurally deficient" and the percentage of road construction spending to determine which drivers are the most abused in America.

Alaska - drum roll please - comes 24th.

What?? How is that even freaking possible? We have such horrible roads!!!

Well, maybe not compared to some other states.

Rhode Island, for example.

The smallest state apparently has the biggest percent of roads in poor condition, 53 percent. It also has the highest percent of structurally deficient bridges at 23 percent. To add the cherry on (black)top, no state spends less of its budget, 2 percent, on fixing roads and bridges than Rhode Island.

That sounds like a "Triple Crown" of Driving Hell.

The only good news is that if you drive for more than about fifteen minutes in Rhode Island, you get to another state.

Following Little Rhody comes a trio of states that often show up on these sorts of "negative" lists. Oklahoma, West Virginia and Mississippi. These lists always discriminate against the South and Southwest because "health" and "safety" aren't usually a priority in that part of the country.

But then comes a group of states that normally do better on national rankings, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California. New Jersey doesn't even have a good excuse, as it spends 57 percent of its state budget on road maintenance each year (behind only South Dakota, North Dakota and Maine).

Other states that have worse roads than Alaska? Missouri, Louisiana, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, South Dakota, South Carolina, Washington, New York, Illinois and Colorado.

Which, of course, means there are 26 other states that have better roads, but we don't live in Alaska just so we can brag that our roads are "remarkably average."

We want to tell horror stories about driving into potholes and coming out years later.

We want to brag that car companies use our roads as "dangerous hazard" test tracks.

We want our bridges to be more deadly than anything over the River Kwai.


So what are the states with the best roads?

Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Oregon and Maryland.

Kinda surprising to see Tennesee and Georgia leading the list. You don't often see those states at the top of any list that doesn't involve "tobacco use" or "percentage of Confederate monuments per capita."

But they both have only 5 percent "roads in poor condition" and 4 percent "structurally deficient bridges." Tennessee gets the national title because it is the only state  in which motorists spend less than $200 a year each in road-maintenance related car costs. That's less than is spent on banjo strings, per capita!

Meanwhile, Alaska sits pretty much right in the middle.

Percentage of roads in poor condition: 20 percent.

Percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient: 10 percent.

Percentage of state budget devoted to road maintenance: 39 percent (most of which comes from the Federal Government).

Each Alaskan motorist spends just about $450 a year on road related car maintenance (Oklahomans spend the most at $900).

So next time your teeth are rattled by a particularly jarring pot hole, or you take out a second mortgage to buy a new set of tires for the second time in six months, or you turn 29, 30 and 31 waiting for the flaggers to let you through, take heart that you are not living in 23 other states where maybe you just CAN wait "to get on the road again."



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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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