25th Annual Highway Report: Executive Summary of Rankings and Findings
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Policy Study

25th Annual Highway Report: Executive Summary of Rankings and Findings

Highway system performance improved, with 23 of 50 states making progress. But those improvements come with costs: spending on state-owned highways has increased by 33 percent since the last report.

This is the executive summary from the 25th Annual Highway Report

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report has tracked the performance of the 50 state-owned highway systems from 1984 to 2018.

The 25th Annual Highway Report ranks the performance of state highway systems in 2018, with congestion and bridge condition data from 2019.

Each state’s overall rating is determined by rankings in 13 categories, including highway expenditures per mile, Interstate and primary road pavement conditions, urbanized area traffic congestion, bridge conditions, and road fatality rates.

The study is based on spending and performance data that state highway agencies submitted to the federal government. This study also reviews changes in highway performance over the past year.

Although individual state highway sections (roads, bridges, pavements) steadily deteriorate over time due to age, traffic, and weather, they are improved by maintenance and reconstruction. As a result, state highway system performance can improve even as individual roads and bridges may deteriorate.

Between 2016 and 2018, the condition of the overall highway system improved slightly.

The four disbursement measures for the U.S. state-owned highway system worsened between 2016 and 2018. States spent more money on their highway systems in 2018 than in 2016.

Of the nine performance categories, seven improved based on the comparison of the 2016 and 2018 data. The categories showing national, aggregate improvement are:

  1. Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
  2. Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
  3. Urban Arterial Pavement Condition
  4. Urbanized Area Congestion
  5. Structurally Deficient Bridges (a smaller percentage of bridges structurally deficient)
  6. Overall Fatality Rate
  7. Rural Fatality Rate

The two performance categories that worsened during that span are:

  1. Rural Arterial Pavement Condition (which worsened substantially)
  2. Urban Fatality Rate

Overall, highway system quality has improved. But states are spending an increasing amount of money for those improvements.

Similar to prior years, the top-performing states in the report’s overall rankings on performance and cost-effectiveness tend to be a mix of average-population and low-population states.

Very rural states may have a slight advantage. North Dakota led the rankings for the third year in a row, followed by Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, and Idaho.

However, in addition to Missouri’s second-place ranking, several states with major cities fared well, including, Tennessee (7th overall), Ohio (13th), North Carolina (14th), Minnesota (15th), and Texas (18th).

At the bottom of the overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings are New Jersey, Alaska, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

Each State’s Highway Performance Rankings By Year (2015-2018 Data)
Statistic201520162018Percent Change 2015-16Percent Change 2016-18
Mileage Under State Control (Thousands)8148378572.78%2.39%
Total Disbursements per Lane-Mile, $NA7111794870NA33.40%
Disbursements per Mile, Capital/Bridges,$NA3668146805NA27.60%
Disbursements per Mile, Maintenance,$NA1192915952NA33.73%
Disbursements per Mile, Administration,$NA45016443NA43.14%
Consumer Price Index (1983=1.00)2392422531.26%4.55%
Rural Interstate, Percent Poor Condition 1.851.961.896.43%-3.52%
Urban Interstate, Percent Poor Condition
Rural Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor Condition 1.351.362.590.76%90.03%
Urban Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor Condition*NA13.9712.06NA-13.72%
Urbanized Area Congestion34.9534.7733.43-0.51%-3.85%
Structurally Deficient Bridges9.69.17.94-5.16%-12.79%
Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles All Roadways1.
Rural Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All Arterials1.581.711.428.20%-16.57%
Urban Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All Arterials0.70.770.7810.45%1.79%
Historical Trends in State Highway System Performance (2008-2018 Data)
Mileage Under State Control (Thousands)816814NA814814815817814837NA857
Total Disbursements per Lane-Mile, $$145,127*$144,533*$150,209*$152,589*$162,202*$160,997*$173,931*$178,116*$71,117 NA$94,870
Disbursements per Mile, Capital/Bridges, $$77,130*$79,951*$81,515*$81,844*$86,153*$84,494*$90,969*$91,992*$36,681 NA$46,805
Disbursements per Mile, Maintenance, $$22,937*$25,497*$25,652*$25,129*$26,079*$25,996*$27,559 $28,020*$11,929 NA$15,952
Disbursements per Mile, Administration, $$13,214*$11,356*$10,484*$10,430*$10,579*$10,051*$9,980*$10,864*$4,501 NA$6,443
Consumer Price Index (1983=1.00)216216222225232235239239242248253
Rural Interstate, Percent Poor Condition1.931.67NA1.781.7822.111.851.96NA1.89
Urban Interstate, Percent Poor Condition5.374.97NA5.184.975.375.225.025.18NA5.1
Rural Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor Condition0.530.65NA0.770.891.271.21.351.36NA2.59
Urban Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor ConditionNANANANANANANANA13.97NA12.06
Urbanized Area Congestion48.61**46.67**NA42.15**NA40.99**51.40**34.95NA34.733.43***
Structurally Deficient Bridges, Poor ConditionNANANANANANANA9.69.18.867.94 ***
Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles All Roadways1.
Rural Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All ArterialsNANANANANANA1.31.581.71NA1.42
Urban Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All ArterialsNANANANANANA0.670.70.77NA0.78

In some ways, states with large populations and small geographic areas may be at a slight disadvantage in the overall rankings, but not entirely. In fact, three of the five worst-performing states rank in the bottom 10 in state population size.

The current highway system performance problems in each measured category seem to be especially concentrated in a few states. For example:

  • Almost one-third (33 percent) of the nation’s rural Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just three states: Alaska, Colorado, and California.
  • Over a quarter (26 percent) of the urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just three states: California, Wyoming, and New York.
  • Just under a quarter (23 percent) of the rural arterial mileage in poor condition is in just three states: Alaska, Iowa, and California.
  • Over half (51 percent) of the urban arterial primary mileage in poor condition is in just five states: California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
  • Automobile commuters in 11 states spend more than 50 hours annually stuck in peak-hour traffic congestion: Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and New Jersey.
  • Although a majority of states saw the percentage of structurally deficient bridges decline, five states report more than 16 percent of their bridges as structurally deficient: Rhode Island, West Virginia, Iowa, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania.
  • Five states have overall fatality rates of 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher: South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona, and West Virginia.
  • Six states have rural fatality rates of 2.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher: Hawaii, North Carolina, Delaware, South Carolina, Alaska, and Kansas.
  • Urban fatality rates continue to worsen and 14 states have urban fatality rates of 1.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher: New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, West Virginia, Texas, Idaho, Georgia, and Nevada.

System performance improved this year, with nearly half of the states (23 of 50) making progress in 2018 compared to 2016. However, a 10-year average of state overall performance data indicates that system performance problems are concentrated in the bottom 10 states. These states are finding it difficult to improve. There is also increasing evidence that higher-level road systems (Interstates, other freeways, and principal arterials) are in better shape than lower-level road systems, particularly local roads.

Finally, the improved system performance came with increased costs. Since 2016, spending has increased by 33 percent.

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

Click a state name for detailed information about its results.

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
New Hampshire29231527441*130252735223418
New Jersey50505050483645464440293423
New Mexico16162138231828331720412750
New York44443948344042404629395445
North Carolina14142114819620162540304926
North Dakota141227551928342212810
Rhode Island4641444539174949465042616
South Carolina63581114202991531504744
South Dakota1164102613132517234736329
West Virginia3338461713393041121049462441
View national trends and state-by-state performances by category:
Total Disbursements Per Mile
Capital & Bridge Disbursements Per Mile
Maintenance Disbursements Per Mile
Administrative Disbursements Per Mile
Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
Rural Arterial Pavement Condition
Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
Urban Arterial Pavement Condition
Urbanized Area Congestion
Structurally Deficient Bridges
Overall Fatality Rate
Rural Fatality Rate
Urban Fatality Rate