Policy Study

Wisconsin Ranks 38th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Wisconsin’s best rankings are urban fatality rate, overall fatality rate and rural fatality rate.

Wisconsin’s highway system ranks 38th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is the same ranking as in the previous report.

In safety and performance categories, Wisconsin ranks 12th in overall fatality rate, 27th in structurally deficient bridges, 22nd in traffic congestion, 35th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 44th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Wisconsin ranks 36th in total spending per mile and 40th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Wisconsin needs to improve its pavement conditions. The state is in the bottom 10 in three of the four pavement categories (rural Interstate pavement condition, rural arterial pavement condition, urban arterial pavement condition). Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Wisconsin’s overall highway performance is worse than Illinois (ranks 28th), Indiana (ranks 33rd) and Iowa (ranks 31st),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Wisconsin is doing worse than comparable states like Michigan (ranks 30th) and Minnesota (ranks 22nd).”

Wisconsin’s best rankings are in urban fatality rate (7th) and overall fatality rate (12th).

Wisconsin’s worst rankings are in rural arterial pavement condition (45th) and rural Interstate pavement condition (44th).

Wisconsin’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 22nd 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.