Annual Highway Report: Ranking each state’s highway conditions and cost-effectiveness
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Policy Study

Annual Highway Report: Ranking each state’s highway conditions and cost-effectiveness

The Annual Highway Report examines every state's pavement and bridge conditions, traffic fatalities, congestion delays, spending per mile, administrative costs, and more.

North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, and North Carolina have the most cost-effective highway systems, according to the Annual Highway Report published today by Reason Foundation. New Jersey, Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, and New York have the worst combination of highway performance and cost-effectiveness, the study finds.

The Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including urban and rural pavement condition, deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, spending per mile, and administrative costs per mile of highway.

A number of states with large populations and busy highways performed well in the overall rankings, including Virginia (2nd overall), Missouri (3rd), North Carolina (5th), Georgia (14th), and Texas (16th).

Nationally, the study finds America’s highway system is incrementally improving in almost every category. However, a 10-year average indicates the nation’s highway system problems are concentrated in the bottom 10 states and, despite spending more and more money, these worst-performing states are finding it difficult to improve.

For example, 43% of the urban arterial primary mileage in poor condition is in six states—California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, and Rhode Island. Approximately 25% of the rural Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just three states (Alaska, Colorado, and Washington). While a majority of states reduced their percentages of structurally deficient bridges, five states—Rhode Island, West Virginia, Iowa, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania—still report more than 15% of their bridges as deficient.

For total spending, three states—Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey—spent more than $250,000 per lane-mile of highway. In contrast, five states—Missouri, South Carolina, West Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota—spent less than $30,000 per mile of highway.

Introduction

Reason Foundation’s 26th Annual Highway Report rates state highway systems on cost versus quality using a method developed in the early 1990s by David T. Hartgen, Ph.D., emeritus professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and since been refined by Hartgen, M. Gregory Fields, Ph.D., Baruch Feigenbaum, and Spence Purnell.

Since states have different highway budgets, system sizes, and traffic and geographic circumstances, their comparative performance depends on both system performance and the resources available. To determine relative performance across the country, state highway system budgets (per mile of responsibility) are compared with system performance, state-by-state. In this report, states with high overall ratings typically have better-than-average highway system conditions (good for road users) along with relatively efficient spending in per-mile categories (good for taxpayers).

The following table shows the overall highway performance of the state highway systems using 2019 and 2020 data. This year’s leading states are North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, and North Carolina. At the other end of the rankings are New Jersey, Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, and New York.

The top-performing states are a mix of large and small states as well as more urban and more rural. In the report’s overall rankings, some very rural states may have a slight advantage (see Tables 1, 2, 3, 4, and Figure 1). But a number of states with large urban areas also rank highly in the overall rankings, including: Virginia (2nd), Missouri (3rd), North Carolina (5th), Tennessee (10th), Georgia (14th), and Texas (16th).

A careful review suggests that numerous factors— terrain, climate, truck volumes, urbanization, system age, budget priorities, unit cost differences, state budget circumstances, and management/maintenance philosophies, just to name a few—are all affecting the overall highway system performance in each state.

26th Annual Highway Report: Each State’s Highway Performance Ranking By Category
StateOverallTotal Disbursements per MileCapital & Bridge Disbursements per MileMaintenance Disbursements per MileAdministrative Disbursements per MileRural Interstate Pavement ConditionUrban Interstate Pavement ConditionRural Arterial Pavement ConditionUrban Arterial Pavement ConditionUrbanized Area CongestionStructurally Deficient BridgesOverall Fatality RateRural Fatality RateUrban Fatality Rate
Alabama28232911402438265209364043
Alaska4834383620486504738304647
Arizona293739153932133112313413349
Arkansas179147433372818514374744
California4544414738404432494325253232
Colorado3728273833473623333518262633
Connecticut314343403015403133229314
Delaware4440324550NA48113498344219
Florida414749443592062376424348
Georgia1420192534231631347282241
Hawaii4741453928NA5048441826175045
Idaho821251614137171623323629
Illinois4039403522274142304837131525
Indiana3233364219444015213821162717
Iowa2219341816183034292248181313
Kansas7186141717295202516354522
Kentucky41271312123962329472039
Louisiana351512227434944383945432538
Maine3317162963744632304423125
Maryland384546412925422039421512523
Massachusetts4348424348411921474436148
Michigan343235282342451742464314726
Minnesota182723322535352572813262
Mississippi151315410262622281333493536
Missouri35191311181224934271837
Montana1168692014353742744374
Nebraska21111019229213748235313931
Nevada2031342346131129211244930
New Hampshire192220264412392324325293
New Jersey5050505049147474550304918
New Mexico277513630242735620484150
New York464947484139463846474061710
North Carolina51417121122108102939292421
North Dakota121125721926174220812
Ohio2426221742283216401119191116
Oklahoma3630263731383943273241453134
Oregon2538293032122214193617393435
Pennsylvania3935243437364333344546221027
Rhode Island4946484643112495041507124
South Carolina233938452824112631504842
South Dakota94482710152916124721146
Tennessee10161820261691081911402346
Texas162430231214251336402332840
Utah636373121581131483815
Vermont1325213345773614145321
Virginia2822718617415271015199
Washington424244494746273043101210217
West Virginia30135331334525849383028
Wisconsin2629282424343141411528111611
Wyoming121013101519341822324464420
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