Hawaii ranks 48th for state of highways, maintenance costs

Hawaii ranks 48th for state of highways, maintenance costs
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
(Image: Reason Foundation)
(Image: Reason Foundation)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii ranks 48th in the nation for highway performance and maintenance, according to a new state-by-state ranking from the Reason Foundation.

"Right now we are rock bottom in quality and there is no way around it," said Panos Prevedouros, chairman of the  University of Hawaii Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Hawaii has the nation's smallest state-owned highways and roads system with just over 1,000 miles.

But the survey from the Washington, D.C-based public policy thinktank puts the condition of the pavement as the worst in the United States.

State transportation officials didn't quibble with the conclusion.

"We realize there are a lot of roads that need some attention," state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara said.

But he believes the state is making progress.

"That's why we're shifting so much more of the money towards system preservation, to make the roads we already have better rather than building expensive brand new roads," Sakahara said.

Despite the condition of Hawaii roads, maintenance in Hawaii eats up a sizable chunk of taxpayer funds. The study said in 2013 the state spent $63,482 per highway mile for maintenance.

Only seven states spent more.

"We are paying two and a-half times the average per lane mile by state's and we are ranked 48th. When are we going to catch up?" Prevedouros said.

Costs include shipping in road materials, transporting repair equipment to neighbor islands, and working through labor and environmental protection laws that can add to the expense.

"Bureaucracy is driving up a lot of costs," Prevedouros added.

The survey also found the state spent $77,962 per mile on administrative costs, the second highest in the nation.

DOT argues the study is based on outdated information and the high administrative amount includes debt service and interest expenditures that are not factored into other states' statistics.

Sakahara said it's not an "apples to apples" comparison.

DOT did its own calculation minus the added expenses.

"That's when our number, that administrative cost, drops all the way down to $18,000 per mile," he said. "Much better than the $77,000 that they quoted in the article, which would certainly boost Hawaii's ranking."

The study also said Hawaii drivers spend an average of 48 hours a year stuck in traffic.

This story is part of our "Getting out of Gridlock" series, which is examining traffic problems in our state and searching for solutions.

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