Policy Study

Montana Ranks 8th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Montana’s best rankings are in urbanized area congestion, total disbursements per mile and capital and bridge disbursements per mile.

Montana’s highway system ranks 8th 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 Montana ranked 6th overall.

In safety and performance categories, Montana ranks 44th in overall fatality rate, 31st in structurally deficient bridges, 5th in traffic congestion, 13th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 19th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Montana ranks 7th in total spending per mile and 8th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Montana needs to reduce its overall fatality rate. The state is in the bottom 10 for overall fatality rate. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Montana’s overall highway performance is better than South Dakota (ranks 14th) and Washington (ranks 38th), but worse than North Dakota (ranks 1st),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Montana is doing better than comparable states such as Idaho (ranks 13th) and Wyoming (ranks 11th).

Montana’s best rankings are in urbanized area congestion (5th) and total disbursements per mile (7th).

Montana’s worst rankings are overall fatality rate (44th) and rural fatality rate (35th).

Montana’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 25th 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.