Policy Study

New Jersey Ranks 50th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

New Jersey’s best rankings are in rural Interstate pavement condition, overall fatality rate and rural fatality rate.

New Jersey’s highway system ranks 50th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. There is no change from the previous report, where New Jersey ranked 50th overall.

In safety and performance categories, New Jersey ranks 4th in overall fatality rate, 29th in structurally deficient bridges, 50th in traffic congestion, 45th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 1st in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, New Jersey ranks 50th in total spending per mile and 50th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, New Jersey needs to reduce its total spending per mile, improve its pavement condition and decrease traffic congestion. The state ranks last in three of the four disbursement categories (overall disbursements per mile, capital and bridge disbursements per mile and maintenance disbursements per mile), in the bottom five in three of four pavement categories (urban Interstate pavement condition, rural arterial pavement condition and urban arterial pavement condition), and last in traffic congestion. New Jersey ranks in the bottom five states in eight of the 13 metrics. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds New Jersey’s overall highway performance is worse than Delaware (ranks 42nd), New York (ranks 45th) and Pennsylvania (ranks 35th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “New Jersey is doing worse than comparable states such as Massachusetts (ranks 46th) and Maryland (ranks 39th).”

New Jersey’s best rankings are in rural Interstate pavement condition (1st) and overall fatality rate (4th).

New Jersey’s worst rankings are total disbursements per mile (50th) and capital and bridge disbursements per mile (50th).

New Jersey’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 47th largest highway system in the country.

For the second year in a row New Jersey ranks 50th. This is due to the state’s fifth quintile rankings (41st to 50th) in many categories. New Jersey spends the highest amount of revenue per roadway mile, ranking 50th in three of the disbursement categories and 46th in the fourth category. The state also ranks last in the country in congestion. It ranks 45th, 46th and 46th in the categories of Urban Interstate Pavement Condition, Rural Principal Arterial Pavement Condition and Urban Principal Arterial Pavement Condition. The state does rank well in several categories. It ties for 1st in Rural Interstate Pavement Condition and its Overall Fatality Rate is 4th. However, the state ranks poorly on far more categories than it ranks highly. Several years ago, New Jersey increased its gas tax by 23 cents. Unfortunately, due to system inefficiency including high costs, we remain skeptical that the increased revenue will improve the overall system.

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.