Alaska's road conditions slightly off national mark

PHOTO/Nancy Pounds/AJOC
Alaska compares favorably against other states in the condition of its highway and road infrastructure, Joe Perkins, commisioner of the state Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, told the House Finance Committee Jan. 18. The national road information program reports that 60 percent of Alaska’s highways and roads are in good or fair condition, compared with the national average of 68 percent of roads in good or fair condition, Perkins said.

"Considering the extreme weather and harsh physical conditions which we deal with in Alaska, like permafrost and thermal cracking, I think we stack up pretty well with the other states," Perkins said.

Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Wyoming and Kansas are rated as having the nation’s best highways, while California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Connecticut and Louisiana have the worst, Perkins told the committee.

Nationwide, 21 percent of roads and highways are in mediocre condition and 11 percent in poor condition. In Alaska, 34 percent of roads and highway are in mediocre condition and 6 percent in poor condition.

"We need to concentrate on improving our mediocre roads and moving them into the good category. We can do this by repaving roads," Perkins said.

The Jan. 18 hearing was an opportunity for Perkins and commissioners of other agencies to present results of their departments’ "missions and measures," the performance goals set by the Legislature on which they report annually.

Another performance goal Perkins is proud of is the measurement of highway lane miles maintained per full-time state employee, compared with the other Western states.

During fiscal 2001 the Northern Region of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities maintained 42.2 lane miles of highway; the Central Region, which includes Southcentral Alaska, maintained 37 lane miles and the agency’s Southeast Region maintained 35.3 miles per employee.

This compares with the average of 29.3 miles maintained per employee in the 18 Western states, Perkins told the committee.

The commissioner also said the department is contracting out about half of the design and engineering work for state projects under its management, which is about the level of outsourcing maintained over the past three years.

Doing half of the engineering in-house and contracting out half is considered the best mix, Perkins said.

The department also paid vendors in about 24 days, on average, in the last fiscal year, he said.

02/03/2002 - 8:00pm