North Dakota continues to have the nation’s most cost-effective state-owned highway system, according to Reason Foundation’s 18th Annual Highway Report. The study finds over half of all state-owned highways across the country are congested and 25 percent of bridges are deficient or functionally obsolete.
Since 1984, per-mile total disbursements on state highways have increased by 262 percent. In 2007, U.S. states spent over $109 billion on state-owned highways, a 10 percent increase over 2006. But not everyone is getting their money’s worth. Taxpayers in New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island and Alaska have the worst-performing highway systems in the nation.
The Reason Foundation study examines state highway systems in 11 categories, including congestion, pavement condition, fatalities, deficient bridges and total spending. The annual report is based on information that each state reported for the year 2007.
Top-ranked North Dakota, which has had the best performing system each year since 2001, scored well by having the least interstate and rural mileage in poor condition and ranking first in maintenance spending. New Mexico continues its impressive improvement. The state was 27th in 2000, but now ranks 2nd in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. Kansas is 3rd overall, South Carolina, with one of the largest state-owned highway systems in the country, is 4th and Montana rounds out the top five.
Delaware posted the biggest improvement in the overall rankings, moving from 28th to 11th by cutting spending without sacrificing road condition. Michigan improved from 42nd to 30th thanks to an improvement in rural pavement condition. Mississippi also posted double-digit gains.
Four states fell in the overall rankings by double-digits — Missouri, Oregon, Vermont and Indiana, which fell 16 spots, from 15th to 31st, because of a sharp decline in urban interstate condition and an increase in spending per mile.
The overall efficiency and cost-effectiveness rankings for 2007:
1 North Dakota
2 New Mexico
4 South Carolina
8 South Dakota
20 North Carolina
26 West Virginia
39 New Hampshire
45 New York
47 New Jersey
49 Rhode Island
“This year’s report shows the difficulties that many states are having when it comes to making across-the-board progress in road conditions,” said David Hartgen, lead author of the highway report and senior fellow at Reason Foundation. “In many cases, we see two steps forward, one step back. We saw improvement in five key categories in 2007, but also found that over a quarter of the nation’s bridges are rated deficient. Urban interstate conditions are worsening again. And real progress in reducing urban congestion has slowed to a crawl.”
The number of deficient bridges had improved for 22 straight years. But in 2007, 151,101 bridges—25.29 percent of the country’s total—were deficient and or functionally obsolete, a one percent worsening over 2006. In the two worst states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, over half of all bridges need improvement.
Another worrisome finding is the amount of highway money spent that never actually makes it to roads. Administrative costs rose nearly 13 percent in 2007, and now account for 7.2 percent, or nearly $8 billion, of state highway spending.
Full Report Online
The 18th Annual Highway Report is online here.
Previous versions of the study are here.