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Missouri highways receive high marks from national think tank


Missouri highways rank No. 3 in the nation overall, according to a new study from a libertarian-leaning think tank. 

The “Annual Highway Report” from the Reason Foundation took a look at traffic fatalities, spending per mile, pavement and bridge conditions, and more to rank each state’s highway system. North Dakota and Virginia were the only two states to rank higher than Missouri. 

Missouri — which operates the 7th largest highway system in the country — particularly did well in capital and bridge costs per mile (No. 2) and total spending per mile (No.3). However, its worst rankings were in structurally deficient bridges (No. 40) and urban fatality rate (No. 33). 

“To improve in the rankings, Missouri needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges,” Baruch Feigenbaum, the assistant director of transportation for the Reason Foundation and author of the study, said. 

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said the state has identified 909 bridges in poor condition and more than $8 billion in unfunded transportation needs. 

Infrastructure needs — particularly pertaining to bridges — have been marked as a big priority for Gov. Mike Parson during his tenure in office. 

During the 2019 legislative session, the General Assembly passed a massive infrastructure bonding bill creating $301 million in bonds to expedite repair of dozens of bridges in the state. The money was contingent upon the $81.2 million Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant the federal government awarded Missouri last month to replace the I-70 Missouri River Bridge in Rocheport. 

“The additional funding will be a tremendous help, but we still have a long way to go to fix all of the bridges in need of repair or replacement on our system and address our backlog of unfunded needs,” McKenna told The Missouri Times. 

“We work hard to make the best use of our limited resources to provide a state transportation system that is safe, innovative and reliable. Our efforts to stretch our limited resources as far as they will go are reflected in the Reason Foundation’s report,” McKenna said.

Feigenbaum pointed out Missouri was doing considerably better compared to some of its neighboring states: with Kansas at No. 6 , Illinois at No. 28, Iowa at No. 31, and Arkansas at No. 32. 

The top five worst states in the U.S., according to the report, are: New Jersey, Alaska, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.

The Reason Foundation’s annual report is based on spending and performance data state highway agencies submitted to the federal government in 2016, urban congestion data from INRIX, and bridge condition details from the Better Roads inventory in 2017. 

The Reason Foundation is a national nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The libertarian organization produces public policy research as well as a magazine.