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How are we doing? – Roads spending drops

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(Editor’s note:  The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.)

(Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report.  The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.)

Have we expanded our highway system beyond our ability to maintain it?

Some experts think so.

A report issued by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2000 found the state’s highway maintenance spending fell from 35 percent of the highway budget in the mid-1980s to only 25 percent in 1998.

Despite the expansion of our highway system, our inflation-adjusted spending on road maintenance did not increase during the 1990s.

Although it is getting better, North Carolina’s highway quality does not compare favorably to other states.

North Carolina ranked 23rd in the U.S. in highway quality in 1999, according to the 2000 Development Report Card for the States by the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

This represents a significant improvement in highway quality since 1995, when North Carolina ranked 47th in the U.S., according to the 1995 Development Report Card for the States.

Highway safety is a related issue.

North Carolina has the nation’s 14th-highest highway fatality rate per million vehicle miles traveled, according to the 1998 Highway Statistics by the Federal Highway Administration.

As our highways become increasingly clogged, they likely will become more dangerous.

The quality of North Carolina’s bridges also is a serious concern.

In 1999, North Carolina ranked 36th in bridge quality, the same as in 1995, according to the 2000 Development Report Card.

According to AAA Carolinas, North Carolina is ranked in the bottom quartile of the 50 states in bridge quality, with one of every three of its bridges rated substandard.

AAA Carolinas rates bridges as functionally obsolete or structurally deficient based on federal guidelines and then uses traffic volume data to identify bridges that deserve the worst substandard rating.

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