Policy Study

North Carolina Ranks 17th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

North Carolina’s best rankings are in total disbursements per mile, capital and bridge disbursements per mile and maintenance disbursements per mile.

North Carolina’s highway system ranks 17th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a three- spot decrease from the previous report, where North Carolina ranked 14th overall.

In safety and performance categories, North Carolina ranks 30th in overall fatality rate, 34th in structurally deficient bridges, 23rd in traffic congestion, 15th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 20th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, North Carolina ranks 5th in total spending per mile and 6th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, North Carolina needs to reduce its rural fatality rate. The state is in the bottom five of all states for rural fatality rate. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds North Carolina’s overall highway performance is better than South Carolina (ranks 20th), but worse than Kentucky (ranks 5th) and Tennessee (ranks 7th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “North Carolina is doing better than some comparable states such as Georgia (ranks 26th) but worse than others such as Virginia (ranks 2nd).”

North Carolina’s best rankings are in total disbursements per mile (5th) and capital and bridge disbursements per mile (6th).

North Carolina’s worst rankings are rural fatality rate (49th) and structurally deficient bridges (34th).

North Carolina’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 2nd 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.