Ranking State Highway Systems on Performance and Cost-Effectiveness: North Dakota and Missouri Rank Best, New Jersey and Alaska Rank Last
Reason Foundation

Policy Study

Ranking State Highway Systems on Performance and Cost-Effectiveness: North Dakota and Missouri Rank Best, New Jersey and Alaska Rank Last

The 25th Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including pavement condition, traffic congestion, fatalities, and spending per mile.

In the overall rankings of state highway performance and cost-effectiveness, Reason Foundation’s 25th Annual Highway Report finds North Dakota, Missouri, and Kansas have the nation’s best state-owned road systems. In terms of return on investment, New Jersey, Alaska, Delaware, and Massachusetts have the worst-performing state highway systems, the study finds.

Of the nation’s most populous states, Ohio (ranked 13th overall), North Carolina (14th)—which manages the largest state-owned highway system, and Texas (18th)—with the second-largest amount of state mileage, are doing the best job of combining road performance and cost-effectiveness. In contrast, New York (ranked 44th overall), California (43rd), and Florida (40th) are in the bottom 10 overall.

The 25th Annual Highway Report finds the general quality and safety of the nation’s highways has incrementally improved as spending on state-owned roads increased by 9 percent, up to $151.8 billion, since the previous report.  Of the Annual Highway Report’s nine categories focused on performance, including structurally deficient bridges and traffic congestion, the country made incremental progress in seven of them.

However, the pavement condition of the nation’s urban Interstate system worsened slightly. Over a quarter of the urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just three states: California, New York, and, perhaps surprisingly, Wyoming.

The study also finds drivers in 11 states spent more than 50 hours per year in traffic congestion, with commuters in the three most-congested states—Delaware, Illinois, and Massachusetts—spending over 100 hours per year in traffic congestion in 2019.

Most states—35 out of 50 —reduced their overall traffic fatality rates. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey reported the overall lowest fatality rates while South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arizona had the highest fatality rates.

In the report’s spending categories, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Tennessee reported the lowest expenditures per mile. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Alaska, Delaware, and Maryland had the highest costs most per-mile. In total, the 50 states disbursed $151.8 billion for state-owned roads, a 9.2 percent increase from $139 billion in 2016, the previous data available.

The condition of the nation’s bridges improved slightly in 2019. Of the 613,517 highway bridges reported, 46,771 (7.6 percent) were rated deficient. The best rankings go to three states where less than two percent of their bridges are structurally deficient: Texas, Nevada, and Arizona. Meanwhile, Rhode Island reported a whopping 23 percent of its bridges as structurally deficient.

Five states made double-digit improvements in their overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings:  Arkansas improved from 32nd to 9th  overall; Mississippi moved from 25th to 8th; Wisconsin went from 38th to 22nd; South Carolina jumped from 20th to 6th; and Iowa improved from 31st to 20th overall.

25th Annual Highway Report Overall Performance and Cost-Effectiveness Rankings

Click a state name for detailed information about its results.

“Although it is tempting to ascribe these ratings to geography or population, a more careful review suggests that numerous factors, including terrain, climate, truck traffic volumes, urbanization and congestion, system age, budget priorities, and management and maintenance practices all significantly impact state highway performance,” says Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the report and managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The states with the three largest highway systems—North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—all rank in the top 21 this year. Meanwhile, states with the smallest amount of mileage to manage, like Hawaii, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, are some of the worst-performing states. Prioritizing maintenance, targeting and fixing problem areas, and reducing bottlenecks are among the successful strategies states can use to improve their quality and efficiency.”

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 2018 as well as 2019 urban congestion data from INRIX and bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2019.

25th Annual Highway Report: Each State’s Highway Performance Ranking By Category
StateOverallTotal Disbursements per MileCapital & Bridge Disbursements per MileMaintenance Disbursements per MileAdmin Disbursements per MileRural Interstate Pavement CondtionUrban Interstate Pavement ConditionRural Arterial Pavement ConditionUrban Arterial Pavement ConditionUrbanized Area CongestionStructural Deficient BridgesOverall Fatality RateRural Fatality RateUrban Fatality Rate
Alabama1918324362536143199372936
Alaska494849464248175021538444649
Arizona23172653737102610313473148
Arkansas992562353427191211394046
California4340404247414438484524183529
Colorado3826283440473316303718293033
Connecticut35424338311123529282612727
Delaware4847414950NA47120508244817
Florida404547413391431346403843
Georgia26229244332157242726838
Hawaii4235363228NA494838422235047
Idaho51111129223611123353639
Illinois3737423119213236264932151622
Indiana322724431845432173221192521
Iowa20253419161827433124816157
Kansas3737158224131117324512
Kentucky41010211171910141325452134
Louisiana31206265434845373544481145
Maine252420336284473433451191
Maryland41464544292741223547157124
Massachusetts4749484049302639454836128
Michigan241519222042461739264114625
Minnesota151914302333352463614234
Mississippi82831231232327937494242
Missouri21194101612222033312330
Montana101318131424113436142842372
Nebraska1281625316313247734252214
Nevada2730332041202425182274137
New Hampshire29231527441*130252735223418
New Jersey50505050483645464440293423
New Mexico16162138231828331720412750
New York44443948344042404629395445
North Carolina14142114819620162540304926
North Dakota141227551928342212810
Ohio132122162129291842211913515
Oklahoma3431313535343942241643432031
Oregon2834292832112513183816384319
Pennsylvania3943373930384033324346281032
Rhode Island4641444539174949465042616
South Carolina63581114202991531504744
South Dakota1164102613132517234736329
Tennessee7571827128982410331835
Texas182830231015281140411343340
Utah1736352924791546461728
Vermont303327374551442330510123
Virginia21321736224215154413171311
Washington453938474646383143391281920
West Virginia3338461713393041121049462441
Wisconsin222913112544373741222791413
Wyoming3612231517265085083020396
View national trends and state-by-state performances by category:
overall
Overall
total-disbursements-per-mile
Total Disbursements Per Mile
capital-bridge-disbursements-per-mile
Capital & Bridge Disbursements Per Mile
maintenance-disbursements-per-mile
Maintenance Disbursements Per Mile
administrative-disbursements-per-mile
Administrative Disbursements Per Mile
rural-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-narrow-lanes
Rural Arterial Pavement Condition
urban-interstate-percent-poor-condition
Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
rural-other-principal-arterial-percent-poor-condition
Urban Arterial Pavement Condition
urbanized-area-congestion-peak-hours-spent-in-congestion-per-auto-commuter
Urbanized Area Congestion
bridges-percent-deficient
Structurally Deficient Bridges
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Overall Fatality Rate
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Rural Fatality Rate
fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-of-travel
Urban Fatality Rate