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 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.