Policy Study

Alaska Ranks 48th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Alaska’s highway system ranks 48th in the nation in overall cost- effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a one-spot improvement from 49th in the previous report.

Alaska ranks in the bottom 15 in seven categories. The state ranks last in both rural Interstate and rural arterial pavement quality. More than 8% of Alaska’s rural Interstate pavement quality is poor, eight times higher than peer state Montana. Almost 16% of Alaska’s rural arterial pavement quality is poor, more than double peer state Hawaii, and 11 times higher than Montana. The state ranks in the bottom five in both rural fatality rate and urban fatality rate. Alaska’s rural fatality rate of 2.01 is 1.5 times higher than Montana’s rate but somewhat lower than Hawaii’s rate. Alaska’s urban fatality rate of 1.16 is three times higher than Montana’s rate and slightly higher than Hawaii’s rate.

In safety and performance categories, Alaska ranks 30th in overall fatality rate, 38th in structurally deficient bridges, 7th in traffic congestion, 6th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 48th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

On spending, Alaska spends $98,683 per state-controlled mile of highway. It ranks 34th in total spending per mile and 38th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Alaska’s best rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (4th) and urbanized area congestion (7th).

Alaska’s worst rankings are in rural arterial pavement condition (50th) and rural Interstate pavement condition (48th).

Alaska’s drivers waste 5.38 hours a year in traffic congestion, ranking 7th in the nation.

Alaska’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 43rd largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the report’s overall rankings, Alaska could improve its rural Interstate pavement condition, rural arterial pavement condition, rural fatality rate, and urban fatality rate,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The state made progress improving its efficiency.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Alaska’s overall highway performance is worse than Idaho (ranks 8th), Oregon (ranks 24th), and Washington (ranks 42nd).

Alaska ranks behind other comparable states, like Montana (ranks 11th) and Hawaii (ranks 47th).

Alaska is a unique state bounded on three sides by water and with a very low population density. However, the state has long had a problem with its rural pavement quality. In addition its roadways have very high rural and urban fatality rates. The fatality rates are partially explained by the long distance to hospitals in many parts of the state, although the state should develop a strategy to reduce both rates. But the pavement quality is another matter. The state has ranked last in both rural Interstate pavement quality and rural arterial pavement quality for many years. To its credit, Alaska took steps to make its highway system more efficient. The state also improved its pavement quality somewhat. But to rise in the rankings it needs a greater focus on eliminating poor rural pavement quality.

Alaska is one of three states with more than 5% of their rural Interstate system pavement in poor condition. Colorado and Washington are the other two states.

Alaska is one of five states with more than 5% of their rural arterial system pavement in poor condition. Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maine are the other four states.

However, Alaska has by far the biggest problem, accounting for 7.4% of all of the poor rural arterial pavement in the country.

Alaska is one of five states that have rural fatality rates of 2.0 or higher per 100 million vehicle-miles. The other four are Hawaii, Nevada, South Carolina, and Arkansas.

Alaska is one of 11 states that have urban fatality rates of 1.0 or higher per 100 million vehicle-miles. The other 10 states are New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Hawaii, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Texas.
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, total) per mile.