Policy Study

Utah Ranks 9th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Utah’s best rankings are urban arterial pavement condition, structurally deficient bridges and overall fatality rate.

Utah’s highway system ranks 9th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a one-spot improvement from the previous report, where Utah ranked 10th overall.

In safety and performance categories, Utah ranks 9th in overall fatality rate, 5th in structurally deficient bridges, 20th in traffic congestion, 11th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 10th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Utah ranks 31st in total spending per mile and 17th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Utah needs to reduce its maintenance disbursements. Utah is in the bottom 15 of all states in maintenance disbursements. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Utah’s overall highway performance is better than Arizona (ranks 29th), Idaho (ranks 13th) and New Mexico (ranks 21st),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Utah is doing better than comparable states like Colorado (ranks 36th) and Nevada (ranks 27th).”

Utah’s best rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (3rd) and structurally deficient bridges (5th).

Utah’s worst rankings are in maintenance disbursements per mile (40th) and rural fatality rate (31st).

Utah’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 39th largest highway system in the country.

Utah shows that efficient DOTs tend to have higher rankings. The state has long been considered an innovative DOT, winning several national awards for administration and creativity. The state has been a thought leader in many groups, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Utah’s efficiency is the result of having a DOT leader who is a transportation professional rather than a politician, a metric-driven project selection process and a collaborative relationship among the federal, state and local governments.

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.