Lest one think Kentucky is near the bottom in just about every ranking of the 50 states, here is a high positive ranking the Bluegrass State has received in an area that may surprise some residents: The condition of the state’s highways.

Kentucky ranks ninth among the 50 states in the overall maintenance of its state highways, according to a new report by the Reason Foundation, a privately funded free market think tank. That’s an improvement over the 12th-place ranking Kentucky received a year ago.

The ranking is particularly impressive because Kentucky has 27,775 miles of highway maintained by the state, which is nearly twice the national average. In other states, highway maintenance is much more of a responsibility of local government than it is in Kentucky.

Do you think Interstate 64 between Ashland and Winchester is in poor condition? Well, not compared to other states. The Reason Foundation study has Kentucky tied for first in the nation in the condition of its rural interstates, including Interstate 64, Interstate 65 and Interstate 24. The new study found that none of the state’s rural interstates were in poor condition.

Based on the expenditures per mile of responsibility, the report also lists Kentucky first for administrative disbursement, fifth for total disbursements, eighth for capital disbursements, and ninth for maintenance disbursements.

Not all of Kentucky’s rankings were so positive. In a state that only has three urban areas, Kentucky ranked 46th for urban interstate congestion. No doubt building two new bridges in Louisville and eliminating “spaghetti junction” where I-71, I-64 and I-65 come together would do wonders to improve the flow of traffic in the state’s largest city. The challenge is finding a way to pay for the project, which is estimated to be at least $3 billion.

Kentucky also ranked a disappointing 38th in the fatality ranking on its state highways and on the narrow width of state roads. We think the two are related. Because Kentucky maintains so many miles of highway, many state roads are quite narrow. That, in turn, increases the frequency of accidents on those roads.

The study also reports that 28.59 percent of the state’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, ranking Kentucky 36th among the 50 states. However, the condition of bridges is a problem not limited to Kentucky. Across the country, 24.1 percent of bridges — or nearly one in four — are deficient or functionally obsolete. In Rhode Island, over 53 percent of bridges are deficient. At the current rate of repair, it will take 62 years for today’s deficient bridges to be brought up to date, and by then, many of the bridges now deemed safe will be considered deficient or obsolete.

We agree that for the most part Kentucky’s state roads are in good condition. The state is quick to repair potholes caused by rough winter weather and the damage caused by overweight coal trucks. And after years of looking the other way, the state is aggressively seeking to limit that damage by aggressively enforcing the overly generous weight limit on coal trucks (120,000 pounds, compared to 80,000 pounds for other commercial trucks).

Kentucky invests many millions of dollars in improving and maintaining highways, with much of that money coming from the state tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. That’s why this newspaper remained silent when the state gasoline tax was recently increased. The cost of maintaining roads is directly tied to the price of oil products. Thus, the state needs additional money to maintain its roads — something it does quite well according to the Reason Foundation.

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