Policy Study

California Ranks 45th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness


California's Rankings in the
26th Annual Highway Report

CategoryRank
overall
Overall
45
total-disbursements-per-mile
Total Disbursements per Mile
44
capital-bridge-disbursements-per-mile
Capital & Bridge Disbursements per Mile
41
maintenance-disbursements-per-mile
Maintenance Disbursements per Mile
47
administrative-disbursements-per-mile
Administrative Disbursements per Mile
38
rural-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
40
urban-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
44
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-narrow-lanes
Rural Arterial Pavement Condition
32
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-poor-condition
Urban Arterial Pavement Condition
49
urbanized-area-congestion-peak-hours-spent-in-congestion-per-auto-commuter
Urbanized Area Congestion
43
bridges-percent-deficient
Structurally Deficient Bridges
25
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Overall Fatality Rate
25
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Rural Fatality Rate
32
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Urban Fatality Rate
32

California's Overall Ranking in Recent Annual Highway Reports

California’s highway system ranks 45th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway

Report by Reason Foundation. This is a two-spot decrease from 43rd in the previous report.

California ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in six categories. The state does not rank higher than average (25th) in any category. Put simply, the state does many things poorly and nothing well. California’s per mile spending ($206,924) is three times that of Texas ($75,153). And what is California receiving for that high spending? It’s not smooth roads. On rural Interstates, 3.05% of pavement is in poor condition while in Texas the percentage is 0.75. On urban Interstates 8.08% of pavement is in poor condition while in Texas the percentage is 3.43.

In safety and performance categories, California ranks 25th in overall fatality rate, 25th in structurally deficient bridges, 43rd in traffic congestion, 44th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 40th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, California spends $206,924 per state-controlled mile of highway. It ranks 44th in total spending per mile and 41st in capital and bridge costs per mile.

California’s best rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (25th) and overall fatality rate (25th).

California’s worst rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (49th) and maintenance disbursements per mile (47th).

California’s drivers waste 14.75 hours a year in traffic congestion, ranking 43rd in the nation.

California’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 9th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the report’s overall rankings, California needs its high spending to translate into better system quality. For example, the state is in the bottom 10 in three of the spending categories yet also in the bottom 10 in three of the pavement categories. The state also needs to find a way to decrease its traffic congestion somewhat,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “While it may be challenging for California to reduce its spending, if the state could improve its pavement quality to the national average it would move the up in the overall rankings substantially. As it is, the state has the worst of both worlds: high spending and poor roadways.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, California’s overall highway performance is worse than Nevada (ranks 20th), Oregon (ranks 25th), and Arizona (ranks 29th).

California ranks behind some comparable states, like Texas (ranks 16th) and ahead of others such as New York (ranks 46th).

While costs in California may be higher than they are in Texas, there is still no reason why the state should spend three times as much per mile. Both states have large geographic areas with urban and rural parts. California may have the larger metro areas, but Texas is growing more rapidly and has a need for additional highways. California is also unique in that it does not rank higher than 25 in any category. Only one other state, Oklahoma, does so poorly in all 13 categories. Even last place New Jersey has high rankings in some of the fatality and pavement quality categories.

California is one of five states to spend more than $40,000 per mile on maintenance costs. New Jersey, Washington, New York, and Rhode Island are the others.

California is one of nine states to spend more than $200,000 per mile on total costs. New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Rhode Island, Maryland, Connecticut, and Washington are the others.

California is one of six states to have more than 20% of their urban arterial pavement condition in poor condition. The others are Rhode Island, Nebraska, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including pavement condition, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, and spending (capital, maintenance, administrative, total) per mile.

Policy Study

California Ranks 43rd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

California’s best rankings are overall fatality rate, structurally deficient bridges, and urban fatality rate.

California's Rankings in the
25th Annual Highway Report

CategoryRank
overall
Overall
43
total-disbursements-per-mile
Total Disbursements per Mile
40
capital-bridge-disbursements-per-mile
Capital-Bridge Disbursements per Mile
40
maintenance-disbursements-per-mile
Maintenance Disbursements per Mile
42
administrative-disbursements-per-mile
Administrative Disbursements per Mile
47
rural-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
41
urban-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
44
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-narrow-lanes
Rural Arterial Pavement Condition
38
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-poor-condition
Urban Arterial Pavement Condition
48
urbanized-area-congestion-peak-hours-spent-in-congestion-per-auto-commuter
Urbanized Area Congestion*
45
bridges-percent-deficient
Structurally Deficient Bridges*
24
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Overall Fatality Rate
18
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Rural Fatality Rate
35
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Urban Fatality Rate
29

California's Overall Ranking in Recent Annual Highway Reports

California’s highway system ranks 43rd in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is no change from the previous report, where California also ranked 43rd overall.

In safety and performance categories, California ranks 18th in overall fatality rate, 24th in structurally deficient bridges, 45th in traffic congestion, 44th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 41st in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, California ranks 42nd in total spending per mile and 40th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, California needs to improve its pavement conditions, reduce its urban area congestion, lower its maintenance and administrative disbursements per mile, and reduce its rural fatality rate. California is in the bottom 10 of all states in six of the 13 total metrics. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds California’s overall highway performance is worse than Arizona (ranks 23rd), Nevada (ranks 27th), and Oregon (ranks 28th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “California is doing better than some comparable states such as New York (ranks 44th) but worse than others like Texas (18th).”

California’s best rankings are in overall fatality rate (18th) and structurally deficient bridges (24th).

California’s worst rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (48th) and administrative disbursements per mile (47th).

California’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 17th largest highway system in the country.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including pavement condition, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, and spending (capital, maintenance, administrative, overall) per mile.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including pavement condition, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, and spending (capital, maintenance, administrative, overall) per mile.

The Annual Highway Report is based on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government for 2018 as well as urban congestion data from INRIX and bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2019.

Policy Study

California Ranks 43rd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

California’s best rankings are overall fatality rate, structurally deficient bridges and urban fatality rate.

California's Rankings in the
24th Annual Highway Report

CategoryRank
overall
Overall
43
total-disbursements-per-mile
Total Disbursements Per Mile
40
capital-bridge-disbursements-per-mile
Capital & Bridge Disbursements Per Mile
30
maintenance-disbursements-per-mile
Maintenance Disbursements Per Mile
44
administrative-disbursements-per-mile
Administrative Disbursements Per Mile
44
rural-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
45
urban-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
47
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-narrow-lanes
Rural Arterial Pavement Condition
35
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-poor-condition
Urban Arterial Pavement Condition
49
urbanized-area-congestion-peak-hours-spent-in-congestion-per-auto-commuter
Urbanized Area Congestion
48
bridges-percent-deficient
Structurally Deficient Bridges
19
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Overall Fatality Rate
18
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Rural Fatality Rate
47
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Urban Fatality Rate
21

California's Overall Ranking in Recent Annual Highway Reports

California’s highway system ranks 43rd in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a one-spot decrease from the previous report, where California ranked 42nd overall.

In safety and performance categories, California ranks 18th in overall fatality rate, 19th in structurally deficient bridges, 48th in traffic congestion, 47th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 45th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, California ranks 40th in total spending per mile and 30th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, California needs to improve its pavement conditions, reduce its urban area congestion, lower its maintenance and administrative disbursements per mile, and reduce its rural fatality rate. California is in the bottom 10 of all states in seven of the 13 total metrics. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds California’s overall highway performance is worse than Arizona (ranks 29th), Nevada (ranks 27th) and Oregon (ranks 12th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation.

California’s best rankings are in overall fatality rate (18th) and structurally deficient bridges (19th).

California’s worst rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (49th) and urban area congestion (48th).

California’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 15th largest highway system in the country.

The Annual Highway Report is based on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government for 2016 as well as urban congestion data from INRIX and bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2017. For more details on the calculation of each of the 13 performance measures used in the report, as well as the overall performance measure, please refer to the appendix in the main report. The report’s dataset includes Interstate, federal and state roads but not county or local roads. All rankings are based on performance measures that are ratios rather than absolute values: the financial measures are disbursements per mile, the fatality rate is fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles of travel, the urban congestion measure is the annual delay per auto commuter, and the others are percentages. For example, the state ranking 1st in structurally deficient bridges has the smallest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, not the smallest number of structurally deficient bridges.


Policy Study

California Ranks 42nd Overall in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

California’s best rankings are rural arterial lane-width (1st), fatality rate (14th), and deficient bridges (28th).

California ranks 42nd in the nation in highway performance and cost-effectiveness in the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation.

California ranks 14th in fatality rate, 28th in deficient bridges, 33rd in rural Interstate pavement condition, 46th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 49th in urbanized area congestion.

On spending, California ranks 43rd in total disbursements per mile and 46th in administrative disbursements per mile.

California’s best rankings are rural arterial lane-width (1st), fatality rate (14th), and deficient bridges (28th).

California’s worst rankings are urbanized area congestion (49th) and maintenance disbursements per mile (47th).

California’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 15th largest system.