Policy Study

Washington Ranks 37th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Washington’s best rankings are overall fatality rate, structurally deficient bridges and rural fatality rate.

Washington’s highway system ranks 37th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a six-spot improvement from the previous report, where Washington ranked 43rd overall.

In safety and performance categories, Washington ranks 8th in overall fatality rate, 9th in structurally deficient bridges, 42nd in traffic congestion, 38th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 46th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Washington ranks 35th in total spending per mile and 37th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Washington needs to improve its pavement condition and reduce its traffic congestion. The state ranks in the bottom 10 in urban arterial pavement condition, rural Interstate pavement condition and traffic congestion. Compared to nearby states, the report finds Washington’s overall highway performance is better than California (ranks 43rd) but worse than Idaho (ranks 13th) and Montana (ranks 8th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Washington is doing worse than comparable states like Oregon (ranks 12th) and Colorado (ranks 36th).”

Washington’s best rankings are in overall fatality rate (8th) and structurally deficient bridges (9th).

Washington’s worst rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (47th) and rural Interstate pavement condition (46th).

Washington’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 16th 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.