News Release


Alaska, Rhode Island, Hawaii and California have the worst highway systems in study of pavement condition, congestion, deficient bridges, fatalities and cost-effectiveness

As Americans hit the road for the Fourth of July holiday, they’ll be driving on slightly smoother roads, crossing fewer deficient bridges and spending less time stuck in traffic jams according to Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories, including pavement condition on urban and rural Interstates, urban traffic congestion, deficient bridges, unsafe narrow lanes, traffic fatalities, total spending per mile of state roads and administrative costs per mile. The study’s rankings are based on data that states reported to the federal government for 2009, the most recent year with full spending statistics available.

Nationwide there was small progress in every category except for pavement condition on rural arterial roads. These improvements were achieved at a time when per-mile expenditures dropped slightly. Despite receiving stimulus funding from the federal government in 2009, spending on state roads decreased slightly, by 0.6%, in 2009 compared to 2008.

“It’s hard to believe it when you hit a pothole or see a bridge in Washington collapse, but the nation’s roads have been getting better,” said David Hartgen, author of the study and emeritus transportation professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “There are still several states struggling and plenty of problem areas but progress continues to be made.”

Among the states plagued with problems are New Jersey and California. New Jersey spends $1.2 million per mile on its state-controlled roads. That’s nearly twice as much as the $679,000 per mile that the next biggest spending state-California-spends. North Carolina, home to the nation’s largest state highway system, spends $44,000 per mile on its roads. South Carolina spends just $31,000, the lowest per mile rate in the nation, according to a Reason Foundation study of all 50 state-controlled road systems.

Drivers in California and New Jersey may be wondering what they are getting in return for that money. More than 16 percent of urban Interstate pavement in each of those states is in poor condition. Only Hawaii ranks worse, with 27 percent of its urban Interstate pavement rated as poor.

Not only are California’s Interstates full of potholes, they are also jammed-80 percent of the state’s urban Interstates are congested. Minnesota has the next highest percentage of gridlocked Interstates, with 78 percent of urban Interstates deemed congested.

In terms of overall road conditions and cost-effectiveness, North Dakota has the country’s top ranked state-controlled road system, followed by Kansas (2nd), Wyoming (3rd), New Mexico (4th) and Montana (5th), according to Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report.

Alaska’s state-controlled road system is the lowest quality and least cost-effective in the nation. Rhode Island (49th), Hawaii (48th), California (47th), New Jersey (46th) and New York (45th) also perform poorly.

Vermont’s roads showed the most improvement in the nation, improving from 42nd in the previous report to 28th in the new overall rankings. New Hampshire (27th) and Washington (24th) both improved nine spots in the rankings.

Minnesota system plummeted 17 spots in the rankings, from 25th to 42nd and Delaware dropped nine spots to 20th.

Massachusetts had the lowest traffic fatality rate, while Montana had the highest.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report
Overall Performance and Cost Effective Rankings

1. North Dakota
2. Kansas
3. Wyoming
4. New Mexico
5. Montana
6. Nebraska
7. South Carolina
8. Missouri
9. South Dakota
10. Mississippi
11. Texas
12. Georgia
13. Oregon
14. Kentucky
15. Virginia
16. Nevada
17. Idaho
18. New Hampshire
19. North Carolina
20. Delaware
21. Tennessee
22. Indiana
23. Arizona
24. Washington
25. Ohio
26. Utah
27. Alabama
28. Vermont
29. Maine
30. Michigan
31. Wisconsin
32. West Virginia
33. Iowa
34. Illinois
35. Louisiana
36. Arkansas
37. Florida
38. Oklahoma
39. Pennsylvania
40. Maryland
41. Colorado
42. Minnesota
43. Massachusetts
44. Connecticut
45. New York
46. New Jersey
47. California
48. Hawaii
49. Rhode Island
50. Alaska

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report is online here and here (.pdf). For data from previous years, please see Reason’s report examining 20 years of U.S. highway data and trends.