12/09/04 — Wayne and Duplin roads receive poor ratings in report

View Archive

Wayne and Duplin roads receive poor ratings in report

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on December 9, 2004 2:03 PM

Duplin County ranks among the worst N.C. counties for deteriorating road conditions and Wayne County is nearly as bad, a report released Wednesday says.

Duplin County has nearly 210 miles of state roads that need repairs or repaving, according to "Trends in North Carolina's County Road Conditions 1998-2004." That's equal to 18 percent of all roads in the county.

Only six of the state's 100 counties have a higher percentage of roads in poor condition.

Wayne has 136 miles in bad shape, or about 12.6 percent of its state roads. It ranks 26th among the 100 counties.

Overall, road conditions have gotten worse since 1998, said Dr. David Hartgen, a transportation expert at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the report's author. The study was published by the conservative Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation.

On average, the state's backlog of road repairs has increased by 93 miles a year, he said. Hurricanes have contributed, as has the state's financial struggles.

"Clearly, North Carolina is losing the battle on road conditions," he said.

Hartgen also surveyed road conditions in 1998 and 2002. He uses data that was collected by the N.C. Department of Transportation during biennial road surveys. The data does not include interstate highways, nor municipal and private roads.

In 1998, Duplin had 82 miles of bad roads, or more than 7 percent, while Wayne had 59 miles, or nearly 6 percent.

But some counties have improved during the same period. Yancey County currently has no roads in poor shape after having 18 miles needing repair as recently as 2002. Richmond County has made nearly as great an improvement.

"Inequalities this large are unacceptable," Hartgen said. "We would act immediately if we found these differences in school or health programs. Unequal roads mean unequal economic health. A uniformly high-quality road system is critical to a strong North Carolina economy."

Overall, 5,994 miles, or 8.2 percent of state-owned roads, had pavements rated in poor condition. In 1998, 5,433 miles were rated as poor.

Hartgen offered some theories on the decline and variations:

*Funding differences. The N.C. Department of Transportation has funding formulas that are based partially on road conditions, but some good-road counties still seem to receive more funding than others, he said.

*Weakening state funding. Several studies have shown the state does not spend enough on repairs and maintenance, something that DOT has admitted in its recent long-range plan, he said.

*Different maintenance practices. Some DOT divisions could have devised better, even cheaper, strategies for repairing roads, he suggested.

*System age and traffic. Differences in the age of roads, the amount of traffic, truck usage, and other factors could cause sharper declines in some counties than others, he said. Urban areas typically have newer roads than rural areas.

*Hurricanes and other weather events. The state still has not addressed all the damage from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which has been compounded by recent storms, he said.

Hartgen called for the state to develop new funding formulas that would improve overall road conditions and eliminate inequities in the state's road system by 2010.

"It is our hope that this study and its recommendations will help to make North Carolina the 'Good Roads State' once again," Hartgen said.

For more information or to see a copy of the report, go to www.johnlocke.org.