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Alaska's road system ranks last in nation

Posted: July 1, 2013 - 8:29pm  |  Updated: July 1, 2013 - 11:08pm
Alaska has the lowest quality and least cost-effective road system in the nation, according to a report released by the Reason Foundation. The foundation is a research organization that tends toward libertarian ideas and has complied the report for 20 years.  Juneau Empire File
Juneau Empire File
Alaska has the lowest quality and least cost-effective road system in the nation, according to a report released by the Reason Foundation. The foundation is a research organization that tends toward libertarian ideas and has complied the report for 20 years.

Alaska has the lowest quality and least cost-effective road system in the nation, according to a report released by the Reason Foundation. The foundation is a research organization that tends toward libertarian ideas and has complied the report for 20 years.

Major problems identified in the report — which is compiled from state-provided data from 2007 through 2009 — include an increase in rural roads in poor condition, a high number of deficient bridges and poor conditions on urban interstate pavement.

This sounds bad, but we’re different in Alaska, right?

A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation says that the Reason report is imprecise.

“We all know that Alaska’s roads are unique and this report, according to our experts, is flawed,” said the DOT’s Jeremy Woodrow. “What’s considered a smooth road in Alaska, might be a rough road in Washington.”

Woodrow said the study doesn’t account for the cost of being in Alaska.

“In these areas with rural roads, it would be a major expense to put underpasses and overpasses where there isn’t a lot of traffic,” Woodrow said.

David Hartgen is the man responsible for compiling the report. Hartgen is a senior fellow at the Reason Foundation and emeritus transportation professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

Hartgen said that facts are facts and that creating special rules, even for Alaska, defeats the purpose of the report.

“If you do that, you roll down a slippery slope that says, ‘nobody can be compared to anybody,’” Hartgen said. “

Hartgen said that because Alaska is so vast is exactly why our roads should be better maintained.

“People traveling long distances from rural communities have to make those trips over bumpy roads,” Hartgen said. “ (The state) has basically let 10 percent of the system go from ‘fair’ to ‘poor.’”

Hartgen said Alaska has similar funding and road system size as Montana and Idaho, but is far behind in the rankings.

What about Alaska’s cost of living or our short construction season? What about the 360 miles between our two largest urban centers and our low population to square mileage ratio?

Hartgen says those are good questions, but the numbers show what the numbers show.

“Maybe (the state) needs more money. That’s something to ask the legislators,” Hartgen said. “These aren’t easy systems to manage. If I were a citizen of Alaska I would be asking these questions.”

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