Policy Study

Rhode Island Ranks 48th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

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

Rhode Island’s highway system ranks 48th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a one-spot increase from the previous report, where Rhode Island ranked 49th overall.

In safety and performance categories, Rhode Island ranks 2nd in overall fatality rate, 50th in structurally deficient bridges, 31st in traffic congestion, 10th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 1st in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Rhode Island ranks 45th in total spending per mile and 43rd in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Rhode Island needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges, improve its arterial pavement condition and reduce its spending. Rhode Island is last in structurally deficient bridges and urban arterial pavement condition as well as in the bottom 10 for all four disbursement categories and rural arterial pavement condition. Compared to nearby states, the report finds Rhode Island’s overall highway performance is worse than New Hampshire (ranks 24th), New York (ranks 45th) and Massachusetts (ranks 46th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Rhode Island is doing better than some comparable states such as New Jersey (ranks 50th), but worse than other comparable states such as Connecticut (ranks 44th).”

Rhode Island’s best rankings are rural Interstate pavement condition (1st) and overall fatality rate (2nd).

Rhode Island’s worst rankings are urban arterial pavement condition (50th) and structurally deficient bridges (50th).

Rhode Island’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 49th 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.