Policy Study

Tennessee Ranks 7th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Tennessee’s best rankings are in structurally deficient bridges, rural Interstate pavement condition and urban arterial pavement condition.

Tennessee’s highway system ranks 7th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a five-spot improvement from the previous report, where Tennessee ranked 12th overall.

In safety and performance categories, Tennessee ranks 35th in overall fatality rate, 8th in structurally deficient bridges, 32nd in traffic congestion, 12th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 11th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Tennessee ranks 14th in total spending per mile and 19th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Tennessee needs to reduce its urban fatality rate. The state is in the bottom 15 of all states in urban fatality rate. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Tennessee’s overall highway performance is better than Georgia (ranks 26th) and Mississippi (ranks 25th) but worse than Virginia (ranks 2nd),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Tennessee is doing worse than comparable states like Kentucky (ranks 5th) and Missouri (ranks 3rd).”

Tennessee’s best rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (8th) and rural Interstate pavement condition (11th).

Tennessee’s worst rankings are in urban fatality rate (40th) and overall fatality rate (35th).

Tennessee’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 17th 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.