Ranking the Best, Worst, Safest, and Most Expensive State Highway Systems — The 23rd Annual Highway Report
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Policy Study

Ranking the Best, Worst, Safest, and Most Expensive State Highway Systems — The 23rd Annual Highway Report

Ranking each state's highway system in 11 categories, including highway spending, pavement and bridge conditions, traffic congestion, and fatality rates.

Overall Highway Performance Rank - Highway Report 2017 Placeholder
Overall Highway Performance Rank - Highway Report 2017

1 to 10 Very Good 11 to 20 Good 21 to 30 Average 31 to 40 Bad 41 to 50 Very Bad 

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report ranks the performance of state highway systems in 11 categories, including spending per mile, pavement conditions, deficient bridges, traffic congestion, and fatality rates.

North Dakota was the top-ranked state on performance and cost-effectiveness thanks to excellent scores on urban Interstate pavement condition (3rd overall), rural Interstate pavement condition (4th), urbanized area traffic congestion (4th), and maintenance disbursements per mile (3rd).  Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska and South Carolina were the other states in top five of the overall rankings.

New Jersey ranked last, 50th, in overall performance and cost-effectiveness due to having the worst urban traffic congestion and spending the most per mile — $2 million per mile of state-controlled highway, more than double what Florida, the next highest state, spent per mile. Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii and Connecticut were also in the bottom five of the overall rankings.

This edition of the study is based on spending and performance data that state highway agencies submitted to the federal government for the year 2015, the most recent year with complete data available. The overall rankings are:

Overall Performance and Cost-Effectiveness Rankings
23rd Annual Highway Report (PDF)

Click a state name for detailed information about its results.

Massachusetts had the lowest fatality rate. Wyoming had the least traffic congestion. And Alaska had the worst pavement condition. Here is how the states performed in each category:

Each State’s Highway Performance Rankings in Each Category
StateOverallTotal Disbursements per mile Capital & Bridge Disbursements per mileMaintenance Disbursements per mileAdministrative Disbursements per mileRural Interstate Pavement ConditionUrban Interstate Pavement ConditionRural Arterial Pavement ConditionUrbanized Area Congestion*Deficient BridgesFatality RatesNarrow Rural Arterial Lanes
New Hampshire30322543381432303871
New Jersey5050505048314747504241
New Mexico241372441814101442346
New York45464549404434484848844
North Carolina1434791425722412941
North Dakota1152931041834153713
Oklahoma 332927373938374218233820
Rhode Island49424348473449322950231
South Carolina5211069211617215028
South Dakota346517133214531438
West Virginia3612682542172473950

Nearly half of the states (23 of 50) made progress compared to the previous report. Two states, Iowa and Delaware, improved their overall rankings by double digits, while six states had overall rankings that worsened by 10 or more spots:

  • Iowa improved 25 positions, from 40th to 15th in the overall rankings, as the state’s per mile spending increased somewhat but mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates and rural arterials) improved considerably.
  • Delaware improved 18 spots, from 37th to 19th overall, as per mile spending decreased while mileage in poor condition (on urban Interstates and rural arterials) still improved.
  • Wisconsin fell 10 spots, from 28th to 38th, as per mile spending increased even as mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates) worsened.
  • West Virginia fell 11 spots, from 25th to 36th, as the condition of its bridges worsened, as did the condition of its rural Interstates and arterials.
  • New Mexico fell 13 spots, from 11th to 24th, as urban area congestion worsened and narrow rural arterial lane mileage increased.
  • Oklahoma fell 16 spots, from 17th to 33rd, as per mile spending increased even as mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates and rural arterials) worsened considerably.
  • Ohio fell 17 spots, from 9th to 26th, as per mile spending increased but the state’s road conditions worsened. Additionally, Ohio’s percentage of bridges in deficient condition jumped considerably as this year’s totals included functionally obsolete bridges, whereas in the last assessment, this information was not provided.
  • Maine fell 18 spots, from 5th to 23rd, as per mile spending increased even as the state’s road conditions (particularly urban Interstates) worsened.

A 10-year average of state overall performance data indicates that a few states are finding it difficult to improve and major system performance problems seem to be concentrated in these states. For example:

  • Over half, 53 percent, of the rural Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just eight states: Alaska, Colorado, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Texas, California and Washington.
  • Over half, 54 percent, of the urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just eight states: California, New York, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
  • Almost half, 49 percent, of the rural primary mileage in poor condition is in just eight states: California, Alaska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
  • Automobile commuters in nine states (New Jersey, California, New York, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington and Virginia) spend more than the national average of 35 hours annually stuck in peak-hour traffic congestion.
  • Although a majority of states saw bridge conditions improve, overall national bridge conditions are worsening, with seven states (Rhode Island, Hawaii, New York, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut) now reporting more than one-third of their bridges as deficient.
  • After decades of improvement, fatality rates are increasing and seven states (South Carolina, Montana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Wyoming and Louisiana) now have fatality rates greater than 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled.
  • Four states (West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Vermont) report that more than one-third of their rural principal arterial systems have lanes considered narrow.
View national trends and state-by-state performances by category:

M. Gregory Fields is a retired military officer with degrees from West Point, Webster University in St. Louis, and UNC Charlotte. He is enrolled in the PhD program in Urban Regional Analysis at UNC Charlotte and has participated in a number of comparative transportation studies.

Baruch Feigenbaum is senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation and lead author of Reason's Annual Highway Report.

Spence Purnell is a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, where he works on pension reform, Florida policy issues and economic development.