Letter: Statistical horseplay on roads from Sen. Boucher

To the Editor:

Republican Sen. Toni Boucher served up a mighty helping of statistical horseplay in her Jan. 25 GOP Viewpoint in The Press. The piece began as a conspiracy warning in which she advises voters that it “appears” to her that the Democratic administration “intends to maximize commuters’ pain to lower their resistance” to funding highway maintenance. That’s a demonization of her rivals that her party’s leader would find tweet-worthy. From there, the senator offered statistical arguments from a study on roads that fails to confirm various evils or incompetence she claims to observe.

Boucher says “Connecticut spends nearly $480,000 for each mile of road in the state versus the national average of 160,000 per mile.” First, that’s a misquote: the study does not measure each mile of road in the state, but only certain defined highways (e.g., in Connecticut, the Merritt, Interstates, and others). Second, she fails to disclose that Connecticut’s outlays stem from high volumes of capital and bridges on these defined highways. Connecticut is inordinately top-heavy compared with the states with lower per-mile numbers — as exhibited in data from the very study she relies on. It’s no fluke that North Dakota, Kansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska record the lowest cost — utility relocation, for example, is not a major challenge there. Costs per state then increase in close, if not precise, relation to traffic density, population, and capital/bridge costs. Boucher also chides Connecticut’s highway administration outlays despite the study’s caution on the fallibility of such data due to varied accounting practices among states.

Republicans in New Jersey have recently used (or misused) the statistics from Boucher’s source, too. It’s Koch’s Americans for Prosperity that disseminate it nationally. Sen. Boucher does the local repackaging. Really, the word horseplay is too kind.

Arthur Leaderman

Quail Drive, Feb. 25