Policy Study

Pennsylvania Ranks 39th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Pennsylvania’s highway system ranks 39th 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 Pennsylvania also ranked 39th.

Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in structurally deficient bridges and urbanized area congestion. More than 15% of Pennsylvania’s bridges are structurally deficient, 1.5 times higher than New York’s 10% and three times as high as Ohio’s 5%. In traffic congestion, Pennsylvania does fare better than New York, but the state’s 35.53 peak hours spent in auto congestion is approximately seven times higher than the 5.68 hours spent by Ohio drivers.

In safety and performance categories, Pennsylvania ranks 22nd in overall fatality rate, 46th in structurally deficient bridges, 45th in traffic congestion, 43rd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 36th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Pennsylvania spends $102,329 per mile of state-controlled road. Pennsylvania is 35th in total spending per mile and 24th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Pennsylvania’s best rankings are in rural fatality rate (10th) and overall fatality rate (22nd).

Pennsylvania’s worst rankings are structurally deficient bridges (46th) and urbanized area traffic congestion (45th).

Pennsylvania commuters spend 35.53 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 45th nationally.

Pennsylvania’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the fifth largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Pennsylvania needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges and its urbanized area congestion. Given the poor condition of its bridges

and its mediocre pavement condition, the state might considering reprioritizing its spending to focus more on roadway and bridge maintenance,” 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 Pennsylvania to have low costs and roadways and bridges in good condition, the state needs to prioritize bringing its infrastructure to a state of good repair.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Pennsylvania’s overall highway performance is better than New Jersey (ranks 50th) but worse than West Virginia (ranks 30th) and Maryland (ranks 38th).

Pennsylvania is doing better than some comparable states like New York (ranks 46th) but worse than others such as Ohio (ranks 24th).

Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom 20 states in 10 of the 13 categories. In fact, the only categories it ranks in the top 30 are in the three fatality categories. It is fair to say the state is not the highest performer in our study. However, given its northeast neighborhood, where costs tend to be higher and overall road quality tends to be lower, Pennsylvania’s performance is acceptable. The state used an innovative Public Private Partnership—the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project—to improve its bridges. Unfortunately, the state still ranks 46th and the bridges need further attention. The state also could improve its 45th place ranking in congestion by building variably priced managed toll lanes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, an area in which the state is lagging behind peer states.

Pennsylvania is one of five states that reported more than 15% of their bridges to be structurally deficient. The others are Rhode Island, West Virginia, Iowa, and South Dakota.

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.