17th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems (1984-2006)

Policy Study 369

In a sign that more and more areas are being impacted by traffic jams and infrastructure problems, 35 states are now reporting that at least 40 percent of their urban interstate highways are congested, up from 31 states the previous year, according to an annual study of the nation’s highways. With urban congestion even hitting South Dakota, the list of states without any clogged interstates is down to just three: Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Drivers in California, Minnesota, and North Carolina are stuck in the nation's worst traffic - over 70 percent of urban interstate highways in those states qualified as congested. California earned the dubious honor of 'most congested' state - 83 percent of its interstates are congested, according to the 17th annual highway study by the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank Eighteen states now report that at least half of their urban interstate highways are congested.

Overall, 50.7 percent of the nation's urban interstate highways were congested in 2006, a slight 1 percent improvement from 2005, when 51.8 percent were jammed. The statistical improvement is due, at least partly, to many states increasing the declared capacities of their highways. 

Deficient bridges were thrust into the spotlight in August 2007 because of the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse. Minnesota actually ranks 5th best in the nation, with 13 percent of its bridges deficient. Of the nearly 600,000 highway bridges in the country, 24.1 percent were reported deficient and/or functionally obsolete in 2006, a minor improvement from 2005 when 25.5 were deemed deficient. At the current rate of repair it will take 62 years for today's deficient bridges to be brought up to date.

David T. Hartgen is Senior Fellow, Reason Foundation

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