Policy Study

Nebraska Ranks 21st in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Nebraska’s highway system ranks 21st in the nation in overall cost- effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a nine-spot decline from the previous report where the state ranked 12th.

Nebraska ranks 48th in urban arterial pavement condition with 28.07% of pavement in poor condition. Nebraska has more than four times as much poor condition urban arterial pavement as peer states Kansas and South Dakota. Rural fatality rate is another weakness, with Nebraska having twice the rural fatality rate as South Dakota but a similar fatality rate to Kansas. Rural arterial pavement quality could be improved. Nebraska has 1.5 times the percentage of rural arterial pavement as South Dakota and five times as much as Kansas.

Nebraska could also reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. The state has twice the percentage of structurally deficient bridges as Kansas, although it does have less than South Dakota.

In safety and performance categories, Nebraska ranks 31st in overall fatality rate, 35th in structurally deficient bridges, 2nd in traffic congestion, 21st in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 29th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Nebraska spends $36,173 per mile of state-controlled road. Nebraska is 11th in total spending per mile and 10th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Nebraska’s best rankings are in administrative disbursements per mile (2nd) and traffic congestion (2nd).

Nebraska’s worst rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (48th) and in rural fatality rate (39th).

Nebraska commuters spend 2.88 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 2nd in the country.

Nebraska’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 30th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Nebraska needs to focus on improving its arterial pavement condition, reducing its rural fatality rate, and reducing its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. The state ranks in the bottom 16 in each of these categories,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Despite ranking highly in the disbursement categories, Nebraska struggles in some of the conditions categories. Nebraska’s arterials and bridges may benefit from more resources.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Nebraska’s overall highway performance is better than Iowa (ranks 22nd) and Colorado (ranks 37th) but worse than Wyoming (ranks 12th).

Nebraska is doing worse than comparable states like Kansas (ranks 7th) and South Dakota (ranks 9th).

While Nebraska ranks 21st, that is a low ranking for a Great Plains state. The state is unable to translate its low disbursement and minimal traffic congestion into a top 20 ranking because its arterial pavement, bridges, and fatality rate all need to be improved. Nebraska may benefit from devoting more resources to arterial pavement quality and structurally deficient bridges as well as developing a strategy to reduce the rural fatality rate.

Nebraska is one of six states that reported more than 20% of their urban other principal arterial mileage to be in poor condition. Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts, 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.