Policy Study

North Dakota Ranks 1st in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

North Dakota’s highway system ranks 1st 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 North Dakota also ranked first overall.

North Dakota ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in percentage of structurally deficient bridges. North Dakota has more than 1.5 times the percentage of structurally deficient bridges as peer state Montana but a lower percentage of structurally deficient bridges than peer state South Dakota.

In safety and performance categories, North Dakota ranks 20th in overall fatality rate, 42nd in structurally deficient bridges, 17th in traffic congestion, 2nd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 7th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

North Dakota spends $26,943 per mile of state-controlled road. North Dakota is 2nd in total spending per mile and 11th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

North Dakota’s best rankings are total disbursements per mile (2nd), maintenance disbursements per mile (2nd), and urban Interstate pavement quality (2nd).

North Dakota’s worst rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (42nd) and urban arterial pavement condition (26th).

North Dakota commuters spend 6.60 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 17th nationally.

North Dakota’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 36th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the category rankings, North Dakota needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. North Dakota ranks in the bottom 10 of all states for percentage structurally deficient bridges,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the

Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “North Dakota has maintained its number one overall ranking by placing in the top 30 in 10 of 11 categories. In fact, other than percent structurally deficient bridges, North Dakota’s next lowest ranking is 26th.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, North Dakota’s overall highway performance is better than Wyoming (ranks 12th), Minnesota (ranks 18th) and Nebraska (ranks 21st).

North Dakota is doing better than comparable states like South Dakota (ranks 9th) and Montana (ranks 11th).

North Dakota has finished in the top spot for the past three years, and some leaders of other states think that North Dakota’s high ranking is evidence that the report is biased in favor of rural states. In reality, there are several categories, such as traffic congestion, that can favor states with a large geographic area and a small population. But there are others, such as fatality rate, that favor states with a large population and a small geographic area. Similar to most top-10 states, North Dakota ranks highly because, in addition to excelling in categories in which it may have an advantage, such as urbanized area congestion, it also excels in categories peer states struggle with, such as fatality rate. In fact North Dakota’s average fatality rank of 13.3 is better than every large-geographic-area-small-population state in the country and better than some large-population-small-geographic-area states. South Dakota ranks second at 13.7.
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.