Policy Study

Iowa Ranks 20th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Iowa’s best rankings are in urbanized area congestion, urban fatality rate, and rural fatality rate.

Iowa’s highway system ranks 20th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is an 11-spot improvement from the previous report, where Iowa ranked 31st overall, as the state saw noticeable improvement in rural Interstate pavement condition and overall fatality rate. Iowa’s previous ranking (using 2016 data) may have been an aberration as previously the state ranked 15th (using 2015 data).

In safety and performance categories, Iowa ranks 16th in overall fatality rate, 48th in structurally deficient bridges, 2nd in traffic congestion, 37th in urban Interstate percent in poor condition, and 18th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Iowa ranks 25th in total spending per mile and 34th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

“To improve in the rankings, Iowa needs to reduce its number of structurally deficient bridges and improve its rural arterial pavement condition. The state is in the bottom 10 for structurally deficient bridges and rural arterial pavement condition. Compared to neighboring states, the report finds Iowa’s overall highway performance is worse than Missouri (ranks 2nd) and Minnesota (ranks 15th), but better than Illinois (ranks 37th),” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Iowa is doing better than a comparable state like Wisconsin (ranks 22nd), but worse than Nebraska (ranks 12th).”

Iowa’s best rankings are in urbanized area congestion (2nd) and urban fatality rate (7th).

Iowa’s worst rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (48th) and rural arterial pavement condition (43rd).

Iowa’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 34th 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 2018 as well as urban congestion data from INRIX and bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2019.