Policy Study

South Carolina Ranks 20th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

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

South Carolina’s highway system ranks 20th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 15-spot decrease from the previous report, where South Carolina ranked 5th overall, as rural Interstate pavement condition and rural arterial pavement condition both worsened significantly. The percentage of deficient bridges also increased significantly. South Carolina also has the highest overall fatality rate in the country for the second year in a row.

In safety and performance categories, South Carolina ranks 50th in overall fatality rate, 32nd in structurally deficient bridges, 21st in traffic congestion, 27th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 28th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, South Carolina ranks 1st in total spending per mile and 1st in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, South Carolina needs to reduce its fatality rate and improve its rural arterial pavement condition. South Carolina is last for overall fatality rate and in the bottom 10 for rural fatality rate, urban fatality rate and rural arterial pavement condition.

Compared to nearby states, the report finds South Carolina’s overall highway performance is better than Georgia (ranks 26th), but worse than Tennessee (ranks 7th) and North Carolina (ranks 17th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “South Carolina is doing worse than comparable states such as Alabama (ranks 10th) and Kentucky (ranks 5th).”

South Carolina’s best rankings are in total disbursements per mile (1st) and capital and bridge disbursements per mile (1st).

South Carolina’s worst rankings are overall fatality rate (50th) and urban fatality rate (44th).

South Carolina’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 5th 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.