Arizona drops in annual highway rankings because of fatal crashes




    The busiest interchange in the state of Arizona, the "Mini Stack," carries more than 300,000 vehicles per day. Interstate 10, Loop 202, and State Route 51 all converge at this interchange located just north-east of downtown Phoenix. Photo by Alan Stark | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Arizona’s ranking for overall highway condition and cost dropped dramatically compared with last year, according to a recent report. 

    The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank funded in part by the late David Koch, released Thursday its 24th Annual Highway Report. Arizona’s overall ranking declined from 13th to 29th in the nation, mostly due to changes in this year’s methodology that emphasized fatalities more as a measure of overall condition. 

    Arizona ranked 49th in urban highway fatalities – ahead of only New Mexico – and 40th in total highway fatalities. 

    “Compared to nearby states, the report finds Arizona’s overall highway performance is still better than California (ranks 43rd) and Colorado (ranks 36th) but worse than Nevada (ranks 27th), New Mexico (ranks 21st) and Utah (ranks 9th),” Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation and lead author of the report, said in a press release.

    Reason’s report is in line with other assessments of Arizona’s highway system, which generally find that Arizona has a serious problem with deaths on the road. 

    The State of Arizona Highway Safety Annual Report for 2017, for example, found that not one of the state’s 11 targets for roadway fatalities were met. General traffic fatalities were 25% above the target, while pedestrian fatalities, which have become in recent years a controversial issue in the state, were 40% above the target. 

    The state aimed for less desirable outcomes in its 2018 report, but still failed to meet the majority of them. 

    Last year’s study found that most outcomes were not met. For the 2018 report, the target for general traffic fatalities was 937 (compared to 767 the previous year), but the state suffered 1,000 traffic deaths. Furthermore, pedestrian deaths were significantly higher than the previous year, and were 22% above the target. 

    Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety piled on in January with its annual report, giving Arizona a “red” score for highway safety, the lowest possible score. The report estimates the annual economic cost due to motor vehicle crashes across the state to be over $4.1 billion. 

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    Parker Shea joins the Arizona Mirror after recently graduating from Arizona State University, where he was editor-in-chief of State Press Magazine. He hopes to one day have a career reporting on issues related to the environment. He is a daily runner and enjoys exploring the Arizona wilderness.

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