Policy Study

Massachusetts Ranks 46th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Massachusetts’ best rankings are in overall fatality rate, rural fatality rate and urban fatality rate.

Massachusetts’ highway system ranks 46th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a two-spot decrease from the previous report, where Massachusetts ranked 44th overall.

In safety and performance categories, Massachusetts ranks 1st in overall fatality rate, 30th in structurally deficient bridges, 46th in traffic congestion, 31st in urban Interstate pavement condition and 37th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Massachusetts ranks 48th in total spending per mile and 45th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Massachusetts needs to reduce its disbursements, improve its arterial pavement condition and reduce its traffic congestion. The state is in the bottom 10 for all four disbursements metrics, and the bottom five for arterial pavement condition and traffic congestion. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Massachusetts’ overall highway performance is better than Rhode Island (ranks 48th), but worse than Connecticut (ranks 44th) and Vermont (ranks 19th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Massachusetts is doing better than some comparable states such as New Jersey (ranks 50th), but worse than others like Maryland (ranks 39th).”

Massachusetts’ best rankings are in overall fatality rate (1st) and rural fatality rate (1st).

Massachusetts’ worst rankings are in total disbursements per mile (48th) and its urban arterial pavement condition (48th).

Massachusetts’ state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 46th 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.