State ranks high when it comes to highways

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nebraska and its neighbors are often disparaged as "flyover states" when the national political season heats up, but most of us do our traveling on the ground.

With that in mind, it's nice to hear we're doing a good job of making that a pleasant experience.

In light of the controversy associated with the implementation of Obamacare -- and Nebraska's unwillingness to participate in the associated Medicaid expansion -- it's good to see a government program that makes efficient, effective use of the public's hard-earned tax dollars.

For the second year in a row, Nebraska has ranked second in the nation in highway performance and cost-effectiveness in the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation.

Nebraska's best rankings are rural Interstate pavement condition (first), administrative disbursements per mile (fifth) and total disbursements per mile (fifth).

We didn't do as well in rural arterial pavement condition (30th) and deficient bridges (28th)

Of the state's 15,500 bridges owned by the state, counties and cities, about 19 percent were rated structurally deficient in 2013.

That makes it the seventh highest number of rural bridges designated as structurally deficient, but Mark Traynowicz, Nebraska state bridge engineer, says that needs to be put into perspective, since the report doesn't compare bridges of the same length.

"They count a 20-foot bridge in Nebraska the same as the Golden Gate Bridge or any length of bridge, and that is what makes Nebraska look bad," Traynowicz told the Lincoln Journal Star.

That aside, we've always cited the system that builds and repairs our public roads as one of the best.

Traditionally, state and federal gasoline taxes, sales tax on motor vehicle sales and motor vehicle licensing fees have been able to keep up our roads.

More efficient vehicles and slowing economies cut into that funding stream, however, and in 2013, the state began using some sales tax funding to keep up roads.

Nebraska's sheer size makes maintaining its highways a challenge -- it's the 28th state when it comes to state controlled highway miles.

Its sparse population means less wear-and-tear on those miles from local traffic, but those in charge of maintenance would probably contend that our harsh winters can more than make up for any advantage.

If only the other governmental agencies could find ways to be just as efficient and effective as the department of roads.

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