Policy Study

Kentucky Ranks 4th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Kentucky’s highway system ranks 4th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is identical to the previous report, where Kentucky also ranked 4th.

Kentucky ranks in the top 30 of all states in 11 of the 13 categories. The state’s worst ranking is fatality rate where it ranks in the bottom four states nationwide. Kentucky’s 1.48 fatality rate is about 10% higher than peer state Tennessee’s rate and about 30% higher than peer state Missouri’s rate.

In safety and performance categories, Kentucky ranks 47th in overall fatality rate, 29th in structurally deficient bridges, 23rd in traffic congestion, 23rd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 21st in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Kentucky spends $36,205 per mile of state-controlled road. Kentucky is 12th in total spending per mile and 7th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Kentucky’s best rankings are in administrative disbursements (1st) and urban arterial pavement condition (6th).

Kentucky’s worst rankings are in overall fatality rate (47th) and in urban fatality rate (39th). Kentucky drivers spend 7.91 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 23rd nationally.

Kentucky’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 8th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Kentucky needs to reduce its overall fatality rate and urban fatality rate. Both are above the average for Kentucky’s peer states Tennessee and Missouri,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “While it may be challenging for Kentucky to have a fatality rate as low as Massachusetts, the state can improve from its current bottom five ranking.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Kentucky’s overall highway performance is better than Ohio (ranks 24th) and Indiana (ranks 32nd) but worse than Virginia (ranks 2nd).

Kentucky ranks ahead of some comparable states like Tennessee (ranks 10th) but behind others such as Missouri (ranks 3rd).

With the exception of overall fatality rate and urban fatality rate, Kentucky has an excellent highway system. Kentucky’s disbursements are low and its pavement quality good.

Kentucky is a consistent top 10-state. It does not bounce around in the ratings like some other states. If the state could reduce its fatality rate, it would be a contender for the top spot in the rankings.
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.