Thursday, June 28, 2007


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 28, 2007

Soon to be on Gov. Bill Richardson campaign literature near you: A national study that ranks New Mexico high — for something good.

An annual survey of state highway systems ranks New Mexico fourth in the nation for most cost-effective road systems. Our ranking hasn’t changed since the previous year, according to The Reason Foundation, a libertarian research organization. But seven years ago we were ranked 27th.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that as far as highway fatalities go, only seven states are worse than New Mexico.

Translation: You’re more likely to be killed on a New Mexico road than on the roads in most other states. But your death would take place on one of the country’s most cost-effective highway systems.

It fills a soul with pride.

“New Mexico is one of several rural, generally Western states that remain high in traffic fatalities,” David T. Hartgen, one of the study’s authors, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “You’ve come down, but you’re still above the national average.”

Hartgen is a professor in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, specializing in transportation planning.

New Mexico’s fatality rate is 2.036 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles.

The Reason Foundation, which has been conducting these highway studies since 1984, looks at a dozen categories to determine each state’s cost-effectiveness. These include traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance and administrative costs.

According to the most recent study, based on 2005 statistics, New Mexico reported 12,205 miles under state control.

This state was tied with 22 others for No. 1 in the category of rural interstate condition and toward the middle of the pack in terms of urban interstate condition.

We were the ninth lowest in urban interstate congestion, 12th for condition of bridges and 16th for rural primary pavement condition.

The road condition rankings are based on data each state submits to the federal government, Hartgen said.

New Mexico scored its worst ratings in administrative cost per highway mile (35th) and that pesky fatality category. But the study concluded, “New Mexico’s solid condition ratings are more than enough to offset its high fatality rate and administrative costs.”

According to the study, the state spent $67,581 per highway mile in 2005. More than $11,000 per mile of that was spent on administrative costs.

The study can be found HERE.

Giving credit: Last year in this column I reported that aspiring New Mexico filmmakers applying for state grants in a state program were required to “acknowledge Governor Richardson and the New Mexico Film Office’s New Visions/New Mexico Program in the end credits of the completed film.”

Apparently, that’s no longer the case.

This year’s application merely says, “Awardees are asked to acknowledge the New Mexico Film Office’s New Visions/New Mexico Program in the end credits of the completed film.”

They’re just asking — and rather politely. And the form says nothing about thanking the governor.

Last year when I talked to Film Office Director Lisa Strout about the requirement, she told me: “What’s important is acknowledging the state.” Specifically mentioning the governor, she said, “isn’t a requirement, in my mind.”

The Film Office this week announced a call for proposals for New Visions/New Mexico. The program will provide a total of $160,000 in contracts for New Mexico-based producers and directors to create narrative films, documentaries, animated and experimental works.

Applications are available HERE, and at the New Mexico Film Office, 418 Montezuma Ave.

I was a teenage colonel: I was not among the 519 recipients of a colonel-aide-de-camp certificate issued by Secretary of State Mary Herrera during days when she served as acting governor. And, because of my recent stories on that subject, (ClICK HERE and HERE)I’m not counting on getting one any time in the near future.

However, in the interest of full-disclosure, I should confess that I’ve been “coloneled” in the past. Walter Bradley, in December 2002, his final month as lieutenant governor, gave me one of the honorary certificates. I was never sure why, except that Bradley’s a nice guy who didn’t take offense when I teased him in this column about his affection for dreamcatchers.

And years before, back when I was in high school, I was declared an aide-de-camp to then Gov. David F. Cargo.

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