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National survey ranks Montana highways in top five

By Jordan Moore, KTVM Reporter, jmoore@ktvm.com
Published On: Jul 11 2013 07:42:37 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 11 2013 10:21:08 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

A new report spells out the best and worst highways across the nation. You might be surprised where Montana ranks.

We are talking about the 20th Annual Highways Report published by the Reason Foundation. According to the study there are 11,134 miles of state owned highway right here in Montana.

The newly released data shows as of 2009 Montana ranked No. 5 in the nation.

We spoke with one of the authors of this study, David Hartgen. He has been studying the data for two decades and tells us the most recent information not only reflects Montana highways, but the progress of this state as a whole.

"Even as recently as 30 or 40 years ago a trip across Montana took several days. Now it is generally possible to go between larger, urban regions in half a day," said Hartgen.              

We headed out to a nearby rest stop to find people traveling across Montana and see how they felt the highways compared to other states.

We found Margaret May who is on her way to Billings from Washington State.

"The Montana highways are wonderful. They were working on the roads trying to make them better, but they are a lot better than Washington State," said May.

At the rest stop in Bozeman NBC Montana encountered people from all over the United States, like Rob Wilson.

"We are all the way from Texas and I would say Montana state highways were clearly better than Texas and Oklahoma, but not quite as good as Wyoming," said Wilson.

Wilson is onto something because Wyoming does rank higher in the study at No. 3.

We asked Hartgen what separates the top five from the bottom five.

"Most of our high ranking states are those typically in the midwest, some in the upper midwest. Those states spend a lot more focus looking at maintenance early in the life of a project," said Hartgen.

Hartgen also shared his personal experience with highways in our state.

"I am a summer resident of Montana. I have driven the entire system at one time or another over the last 20 years," said Hartgen.                                         

We dug into the report to see how our neighboring states ranked. North Dakota won the absolute top spot. Our neighbor Idaho is a little further down the list at No. 17. According to the report the worst state is Alaska.

While Montana did have good quality roads the report found Montana ranked last in highway fatalities.