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

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

David T. Hartgen is Emeritus Professor of Transportation Studies at UNC Charlotte. Professor Hartgen is widely known in transportation circles. He established UNC Charlotte's Center for Interdisciplinary Transportation Studies in 1989 and now teaches and conducts research in transportation policy and planning. He is the author of about 330 studies on a wide variety of topics in transportation policy and planning, is the U.S. editor of the international academic journal Transportation, and is active in professional organizations. He is a frequent media interviewee in local and national outlets. Before coming to Charlotte he directed the statistics, traffic forecasting and analysis functions of the New York State Department of Transportation and served as a Policy Analyst at the Federal Highway Administration. He holds engineering degrees from Duke University and Northwestern University. He has taught at SUNY Albany, Union College and Syracuse University and lectures widely. His studies of the comparative performance of transportation systems have received nation-wide attention. He has also recently completed a major component of Reason's Mobility Study that estimates the cost of significantly reducing road congestion nation-wide, a comprehensive study of congestion in North Carolina, and a comparative study of the 50 state highway systems . His current research includes an assessment of the economic impact of highways in South Carolina, a review of transportation performance for the provinces of Canada, a national study of business impacts of congestion, and an assessment of congestion in mid-sized cities.