Get ready to rumble

| January 04, 2002

“It’s like going from heaven to hell,” says John Hoard about crossing from Tennessee into Arkansas. “Tennessee has the best stretch of the worst highway in the world: I-40.”

That’s what many respondents in Overdrive‘s annual Highway Report Card survey think. For the fifth year, Arkansas roads were named the worst by 14 percent of the respondents, though the state also ranked high on the most improved list. The Volunteer State received almost 9 percent of the votes for best roads, topping that category.

Arkansas was also home to the segment of road voted worst in the nation: I-40 from Fort Smith to West Memphis, chosen by 18 percent of respondents.

“It’s amazing that the stuff stays on the flatbed,” says Ray Raczek, who made about 40 trips across I-40 this summer. “As soon as you get into Arkansas from Tennessee, it’s like a washboard all the way across.”

Ken Zell, who hauls antique and classic cars for Horseless Carriage, says, “It just beats you to death.”

“It’s nothing but holes, and it’ll tear your truck to pieces,” says Burt McKinney Jr., who has been hauling steel for almost 18 years. According to more than 65 percent of the survey respondents, it’s potholes that make the worst of the nation’s roads so horrible.

“You can’t drive in the right lane, the bumps are so bad,” says Elbert Story of White Bluff, Tenn. “There are signs that tell you to drive in the left lane. The whole system is in bad shape.”

“Arkansas was the first state to have its interstate system completed, so we have some of the oldest interstates in the country,” says Randy Ort of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Last year, Arkansas launched a $950 million program to improve more than 60 percent – 380 miles – of its interstates. “The plan is to have all work under way in three years and completed in five,” Ort says. “It’s the second year, and we’re on schedule.”

Instead of piling more asphalt over the old asphalt, which is relatively quick and cheap, Arkansas is crushing the pavement and using that as the foundation for new asphalt, a process called rubbleization.

Truckers have noticed the progress. Respondents chose Arkansas roads as the second most improved. “There are so many roads that are quite rough, but they’re doing a good job working on it,” Zell says.

For the fifth year, Pennsylvania was voted most improved. “Pennsylvania used to be the worst, but now they’re getting with the program,” says Gary Frisbie of Depew, N.Y., who is leased to Clark Transfer.

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