Policy Study

Delaware Ranks 42nd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Delaware’s best rankings are rural arterial pavement condition, structurally deficient bridges and urban arterial pavement condition.

Delaware’s highway system ranks 42nd in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 23-spot decrease from the previous report, where Delaware ranked 19th overall, as disbursements increased significantly and urban Interstate pavement condition deteriorated significantly. Delaware’s previous ranking (using 2015 data) may have been an aberration as several years ago it ranked 37th (using 2013 data).

In safety and performance categories, Delaware ranks 24th in overall fatality rate, 6th in structurally deficient bridges, 38th in traffic congestion and 48th in urban Interstate pavement condition. Delaware has no rural Interstate mileage.

On spending, Delaware ranks 43rd in total spending per mile and 28th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Delaware needs to reduce its spending and improve its urban Interstate pavement condition. The state is in the bottom 10 in three of the four disbursement rankings (total spending, maintenance, and administrative) and in the bottom five in urban Interstate pavement condition. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Delaware’s overall highway performance is better than New Jersey (ranks 50th) but worse than Maryland (ranks 39th) and Pennsylvania (ranks 35th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Delaware is doing better than comparable states such as Connecticut (ranks 44th) but worse than others such as New Hampshire (ranks 24th).”

Delaware’s best rankings are in rural arterial pavement condition (1st) and structurally deficient bridges (6th).

Delaware’s worst rankings are in administrative disbursements per mile (49th), and maintenance disbursements per mile (49th).

Delaware’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 40th largest highway system in the country.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including pavement condition, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, and spending (capital, maintenance, administrative, overall) per mile.

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.