Policy Study

Massachusetts Ranks 43rd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Massachusetts’ highway system ranks 43rd in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a four-spot improvement from the previous report, where Massachusetts ranked 47th.

Massachusetts ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in seven of the report’s 13 metrics. Like other states in the Northeast, Massachusetts’ disbursements per lane-mile are high. But unlike some states in the Northeast, the state’s rural Interstate and urban arterial pavement quality is poor. Massachusetts has twice as much poor rural Interstate pavement as Maryland; New Jersey reports no poor Interstate mileage. Massachusetts has 1.5 times as much poor urban arterial mileage as peer state Maryland, and trails New Jersey in this category as well.

In safety and performance categories, Massachusetts ranks 1st in overall fatality rate, 36th in structurally deficient bridges, 44th in traffic congestion, 19th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 41st in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Massachusetts spends $345,947 per mile of state-controlled road. Massachusetts is 48th in total spending per mile and 42nd in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Massachusetts’ best rankings are in overall fatality rate (1st) and rural fatality rate (4th).

Massachusetts’ worst rankings are total disbursements per mile (48th), and administrative disbursements per mile (48th).

Massachusetts commuters spend 33.63 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 44th in the country.

Massachusetts’ state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 46th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Massachusetts should try to have its high costs translate into better pavement condition and less traffic congestion. For example, the state ranks in the bottom 10 states in all four of the disbursement categories and also ranks in the bottom 10 in two of the four pavement condition categories (rural Interstate and urban arterial) and traffic congestion,” 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 Massachusetts to reduce its spending, if the state could improve its pavement quality to the national average, it would move up in the overall rankings. As it is, the state has high spending and many roads in poor condition.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Massachusetts’ overall highway performance is better than Rhode Island (ranks 49th) but worse than Vermont (ranks 13th) and Connecticut (ranks 31st).

Massachusetts is doing better than some comparable states like New Jersey (ranks 50th) but worse than others such as Maryland (ranks 38th).

While costs in Massachusetts are higher than in some other parts of the country, pavement quality and traffic congestion are also a problem. While cheaper than New Jersey, the state still spends 1.5 times what Maryland spends per state-controlled lane-mile while ranking in the bottom 10 in rural Interstate and urban arterial pavement quality. Despite lacking a metro area in the top 10 for population, the state also has the seventh worst traffic congestion in the country. High spending with a good overall system is not a problem; high spending with poor pavement quality and severe traffic congestion leads to a ranking in the 40s.

Massachusetts is one of four states that spend more than $15,000 per lane-mile on administrative disbursements. Delaware, New Jersey, and Washington are the other three.

Massachusetts is one of nine states that spend more than $200,000 per lane-mile on total disbursements. New Jersey, New York, Florida, Rhode Island, Maryland, California, Connecticut, and Washington are the others.

Massachusetts is one of six states that reported more than 20% of the urban other principal arterial mileage to be in poor condition. Rhode Island, California, Nebraska, New York, and New Jersey are the others.

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.