Study Ranks Florida Second Worst in Urban Roads

Article excerpt

Florida is doing a poor job maintaining its urban highways,

spending far more federal dollars on new roads while neglecting

older, crumbling thoroughfares, two public interest groups say.

But state transportation officials were quick to debunk the

study released yesterday by two Washingtonbased think tanks, the

Environmental Working Group and the Surface Transportation

Policy Project.

The report zings state leaders for spending almost two-thirds

of their federal highway funds to build and expand highways in

urban areas.

According to researchers, state motorists spend close to 10

times as much money -- about $212 million annually -- to repair

damage to vehicles caused by bad roads than the state spends in

federal dollars -- $22.7 million -- to fix them.

"The people of Florida are using these roads, and it appears

that they are not being fixed as they should be," said Brian

Cohen, the policy analyst who wrote the report.

Florida ranked second behind Iowa and tied with Illinois on the

so-called "Pothole Index," which factored in the number of miles

of urban highways needing repairs and the amount of federal

dollars used to maintain them.

Upon closer examination, however, the study reveals that only

597 of the state's 12,000 miles of highways were included in the

analysis, based on data collected by the U.S. Department of

Transportation.

According to Dick Kane, a state transportation spokesman in

Tallahassee, the federal government only funds about a third of

the $1 billion it spends annually to build and maintain roads.

The majority comes from taxes and fees collected within the

state.

"We don't agree with their findings and recommendations," Kane

said.

In the current fiscal year, for example, the state is spending

$300 million to repave state roads and highways, including many

in urban areas, Kane said.

"So where they are getting their figures, I don't know," he

said.

The groups complained that, under the current federal highway

funding program, states have diverted money intended for repairs

to building new roads. …