LOS ANGELES — According to a study released last week by The Reason Foundation, California is home to the nation's worst traffic jams on interstates surrounding major metropolitan areas but they are far from alone. About 83% of California's urban interstates are overcrowded, followed by Minnesota at about 78% and New Jersey at nearly 73%.
Drivers in four lucky states enjoyed zero congestion — Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Traffic jams on New York's urban interstates were only mediocre, ranking 37th at 53%. Drivers in some states whose booming economies are magnets for new residents spent much more time car-sitting without moving than New Yorkers. Florida ranked number 40, at 59%, and Texas, whose $50 billion road privatization dwarfs all of its peers, was number 41 at 60% the study said. And for the eighth year in a row, New Jersey had the nation's worst overall road system, according to the group.
"Gridlock isn't going away," said David Hartgen, the lead author and a professor at the University of North Carolina. To reverse this trend, the 50 states, which spent almost $99 billion on roads in 2005, must prioritize their dollars on traffic-busting projects, added the Charlotte-based expert.
That might be a bit of a challenge for New Jersey, whose Democratic Gov. John Corzine might partly privatize its toll roads. New Jersey's administrative costs were the nation's highest at $68,352 per state-controlled mile, the study said.
Massachusetts was 49th at $60,807, and next was California, whose overhead ate up $50,614. New York ranked 43rd, but its $18,687 tab was less than one-third of neighboring New Jersey.
North Dakota had the least expensive bureaucrats, spending only $1,786, followed closely by Arkansas, which ranked second at $1,805, and Missouri, which was third at $1,989.
New Jersey's total road budget — $2.36 million per state-controlled mile — was also more than double that of the next biggest spender, which was Massachusetts at $893,236. Florida was 48th at $570,191, just above New York, which ranked 47th with a budget of $552,807.
Though often driver-maddening, traffic jams can actually cut deaths by slowing speeds. "Most of the states with very low accident rates also have very high congestion," said Hartgen. Massachusetts did best on the death scale, with only 0.797 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. Connecticut came second at 0.865, followed by Vermont at 0.946.
New Jersey was 5th with 1.013, followed by New York at 1.039. California took 19th place with 1.315 fatalities. Montana was the deadliest, with 2.256 fatalities. South Dakota was 49th at 2.215, and South Carolina was 48th at 2.211.