The investment Kansas has made into its highway system is paying off.

A new report from the The Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based group, rates Kansasí highway system as the second best in the United States for overall condition and cost-effectiveness.

Kansas ranked behind only North Dakota in the annual report on state road systems. In the previous two years, Kansas had ranked third nationally.

That is a clear reflection of the financial commitment the Sunflower State has put into its roads. The latest report was based on data reported to the federal government in 2009. The following year, Kansas started a 10-year, $8 billion transportation program, following up on programs in 1989 and 1999.

The report found that with 10,607 miles of highway under its control, Kansas was able to achieve high marks in a number of criteria while spending 24 percent less than the U.S. average in per-mile disbursements. Kansas spends about $109,000 a mile to maintain its highways, which ranked it in the top one-third of U.S. states.

Safe roads and highways are an oft-overlooked budget item. Kansas has made the financial commitment to maintain them. While other states have allowed their roads to deteriorate, our lawmakers consistently have invested the money necessary for upkeep. Meanwhile, state Transportation Secretary Mike King has devised a plan for making the stateís more dangerous roads safer.

It is a quality-of-life - and economic development - issue that never should be underestimated.

There are times when it appears some stretches of highway are constantly under construction and that the orange barrels have been out too long. Those stretches of road can cause traffic issues and driving inconveniences. They test our patience. However, the end result makes it worthwhile.

Keep in mind that Kansasí climate limits the months our road crews can do their jobs and makes roads harder and more expensive to maintain.

That work is necessary. The Reason Foundationís findings are proof of that.

ó The Hutchinson News