Study Ranks Every State’s Highway System, Finds Road Conditions Worsening In Important Categories
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Policy Study

Study Ranks Every State’s Highway System, Finds Road Conditions Worsening In Important Categories

North Dakota, Virginia and Missouri have the best performing, most cost-efficient state highway systems, while New Jersey, Rhode Island and Hawaii have the worst.

After decades of incremental progress in several key categories, Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report finds the nation’s highway conditions are deteriorating, especially in a group of problem-plagued states struggling to repair deficient bridges, maintain Interstate pavement and reduce urban traffic congestion.

“In looking at the nation’s highway system as a whole, there was a decades-long trend of incremental improvement in most key categories, but the overall condition of the highway system has worsened in recent years,” says Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “This year we see some improvement on structurally deficient bridges, but pavement conditions on rural and urban highways are declining, the rise in traffic fatalities is worrying, and we aren’t making needed progress on traffic congestion in our major cities.”

The 24th Annual Highway Report, based on data that states submitted to the federal government, ranks each state’s highway system in 13 categories, including traffic fatalities, pavement condition, congestion, spending per mile, administrative costs and more. This edition of the Annual Highway Report uses state-submitted highway data from 2016, the most recent year with complete figures currently available, along with traffic congestion and bridge data from 2017.

North Dakota ranks first in the Annual Highway Report’s overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings of state highway systems for the second year in a row. North Dakota’s rural and urban Interstate pavement conditions both rank in the top 10 and the state has kept its per-mile costs down.  Virginia jumps an impressive 25 spots in the rankings—from 27th overall in the previous report—into second-place in performance and cost-effectiveness.  Missouri, Maine and Kentucky round out the top five states.

The state highway systems in New Jersey (50th), Alaska (49th), Rhode Island (48th), Hawaii (47th), Massachusetts (46th) and New York (45th) rank at the bottom of the nation in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. Despite spending more money per mile than any other state, New Jersey has the worst urban traffic congestion and among the worst urban Interstate pavement conditions in the country.

Overall Rankings, 24th Annual Highway Report
(Click on states for their detailed rankings and information)

OVERALL STATE RANKINGS - Highway Report 2019 Placeholder
OVERALL STATE RANKINGS - Highway Report 2019
1 to 10 Very Good 11 to 20 Good 21 to 30 Average 31 to 40 Bad 41 to 50 Very Bad 

The study finds pavement conditions on both urban Interstates and rural Interstates are deteriorating, with the percentage of urban Interstate mileage in poor condition increasing in 29 of 50 states. One-third, 33 percent, of the nation’s urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is concentrated in just five states: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, and New York.

It’s not just urban Interstates with the rougher pavement, however, the Annual Highway Report finds the percentage of rural arterial principal roads in poor condition at its worst levels since 2000.

Similarly, the study’s three traffic fatality categories —overall, urban and rural—all show more fatalities in 2016 than in any year since 2007.

The most positive news is on bridges, where 39 states lowered the percentage of bridges deemed structurally deficient. Unfortunately, 18 percent or more of bridges remain structurally deficient in these five states: Iowa, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Traffic congestion remains about the same from the previous report, with Americans spending an average of 35 hours a year stuck in traffic. Drivers in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia and Massachusetts experience the longest delays due to urban traffic congestion in their metro regions.

The Annual Highway Report finds states disbursed about $139 billion for state-controlled highways and arterials in 2016, a four percent decrease from approximately $145 billion spent in 2015.

“Some may point to the slight decrease in overall state highway spending in 2016 as a cause of the lack of improvement in key highway metrics, but 21 states made overall progress in 2016. Examining the 10-year average of state overall performance data indicates that the national system performance problems are largely concentrated in the bottom 10 states,” Feigenbaum says. “Towards the bottom of the rankings, you have highly populated states, like last-place New Jersey, along with Massachusetts, New York, and California to a lesser extent, that are spending a lot but often failing to keep up with traffic congestion and road maintenance. There are also a few very problematic low-population states like Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii and Alaska, which contribute an outsized share of the nation’s structurally deficient bridges, poor pavement conditions, and high administrative costs—money that doesn’t make it to roads.”

New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut spent the most on their highways on a per-mile basis, with each state spending more than $200,000 per mile of highway it controls. In contrast, Missouri, which ranks third overall in performance and cost-effectiveness, did so while spending just $23,534 per mile of highway it controls.

Massachusetts ranks low in the overall rankings but shows the nation’s lowest traffic fatality rate, while South Carolina reports the highest.

View national trends and state-by-state performances by category:

Executive Summary From 24th Annual Highway Report

Full Study: 24th Annual Highway Report

24th Annual Highway Report’s State-by-State Summaries

Previous Editions of the Annual Highway Report

Overall Performance and Cost-Effectiveness Rankings
24th Annual Highway Report (PDF)

Click a state name for detailed information about its results.

Each State’s Highway Performance Rankings in Each Category
StateOverallTotal Disbursements per MileCapital & Bridge Disbursements per MileMaintenance Disbursements Per MileAdmin Disbursements per MileRural Interstate Pavement ConditionUrban Interstate Pavement CanditionRural Arterial Pavement ConditionUrban Arterial Pavement ConditionUrbanized Area CongestionStructurally Deficient BridgesOverall Fatality RateRural Fatality RateUrban Fatality Rate
Alabama10161623516301221822434036
Alaska492941303248195019636473741
Arizona29323514422961717364403649
Arkansas321012113404444381317453946
California4340304444454735494819184721
Colorado3633343227472827333713233332
Connecticut444647335042183422302411426
Delaware4243284949NA48113386241929
Florida40494941376521403424847
Georgia26223015413021144477312835
Hawaii4741423934NA5048391915215048
Idaho1323111713261420251128414124
Illinois2842463522843164526161527
Indiana3330364221434332212721142918
Iowa312029191533364330349272116
Kansas61924101679471625334437
Kentucky5181816112161082523482345
Louisiana341721246394938372944461643
Maine41510285126727741201110
Maryland39444445362739213444147323
Massachusetts46484543483731474846301112
Michigan303827272534421941343519730
Minnesota222531292335402564111364
Mississippi2591541438372429123949461
Missouri33212417175142440322433
Montana87881219133132531443511
Nebraska1513142321824294584517258
Nevada27343222451325265332293238
New Hampshire24242237261736232638151825
New Jersey50505050461454646502941022
New Mexico216413925322201420393450
New York45474847434146304449375455
North Carolina1756910201523182334304913
North Dakota111253891152844322222
Ohio182839211931291835281813515
Oklahoma4137334638364137401542382642
Oregon122113253115239151712344219
Pennsylvania3539383428323241313546252028
Rhode Island4845434847110495031502214
South Carolina20115728274292132504344
South Dakota1445618238334294728149
Tennessee71419182411121611328351740
Texas232726262222331336431373834
Utah931174029101111320593117
Vermont19262338401139261010683
Virginia212731201422612391610126
Washington3735373630463828474298920
West Virginia16237921204010248362731
Wisconsin383640203344354543222712137
Wyoming118913172434824133263039

Baruch Feigenbaum is assistant director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Spence Purnell is a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, where he works on pension reform, Florida policy issues and economic development.

M. Gregory Fields is a retired military officer with degrees from West Point, Webster University in St. Louis, and UNC Charlotte. He is enrolled in the PhD program in Urban Regional Analysis at UNC Charlotte and has participated in a number of comparative transportation studies.