Policy Study

Rhode Island Ranks 49th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Rhode Island's Rankings in the
26th Annual Highway Report

Total Disbursements per Mile
Capital & Bridge Disbursements per Mile
Maintenance Disbursements per Mile
Administrative Disbursements per Mile
Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
Rural Arterial Pavement Condition
Urban Arterial Pavement Condition
Urbanized Area Congestion
Structurally Deficient Bridges
Overall Fatality Rate
Rural Fatality Rate
Urban Fatality Rate

Rhode Island's Overall Ranking in Recent Annual Highway Reports

Rhode Island’s highway system ranks 49th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a three-spot decline from the previous report, where Rhode Island ranked 46th.

Rhode Island ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in eight of the report’s 13 metrics. The state’s costs are high and its arterial pavement and bridge quality are disproportionately poor. Rhode Island spends $225,118 per mile of state-controlled road, more than the

$205,802 that peer state Connecticut spends. But while Connecticut has 1.64% of its rural arterial pavement in poor condition, Rhode Island has 11.34% in poor condition. While Connecticut has 11.38% of its urban arterial pavement in poor condition, Rhode Island has 30.82% in poor condition. And while 6.34% of Connecticut’s bridges are structurally deficient, 22.34% of Rhode Island’s bridges are structurally deficient.

In safety and performance categories, Rhode Island ranks 7th in overall fatality rate, 50th in structurally deficient bridges, 41st in traffic congestion, 12th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 1st in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Rhode Island spends $225,118 per mile of state-controlled road. Rhode Island is 46th in total spending per mile and 48th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Rhode Island’s best rankings are in rural Interstate pavement condition (1st) and rural fatality rate (1st).

Rhode Island’s worst rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (50th) and structurally deficient bridges (50th).

Rhode Island commuters spend 23.70 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 41st nationally.

Rhode Island’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 49th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Rhode Island should try to have its high costs better translate into things like good pavement condition, less traffic congestion and fewer deficient bridges. For example, the state ranks in the bottom 10 in four of the disbursement categories but still ranks in the bottom two states in both arterial pavement condition categories and in percent structurally deficient bridges,” 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 Rhode Island to reduce its spending, if the state could improve its arterial pavement quality to the national average and reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges somewhat, it would move up in the overall rankings substantially. As is, the state has the worst of both worlds: high spending and poor roadways.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Rhode Island’s overall highway performance is worse than New Hampshire (ranks 19th), New York (ranks 46th) and Massachusetts (ranks 43rd).

Rhode Island is doing better than some comparable states like New Jersey (ranks 50th) but worse than others such as Connecticut (ranks 31st).

Rhode Island excels in some categories but performs miserably in others. The state ranks in the top 12 in four categories and the bottom 10 in eight categories. Ultimately, the state’s low ranking is a result of it performing very poorly in those eight categories, particularly arterial pavement quality and percent structurally deficient bridges. Rhode Island has twice as much poor rural arterial pavement as New Jersey and seven times as much as Connecticut. Rhode Island has 1.5 times as much poor urban arterial pavement as New Jersey and three times as much as Connecticut. Finally, Rhode Island has three times the percentage of structurally deficient bridges as New Jersey, and 3.5 times the percentage as Connecticut. New Jersey is ranked 50th overall and Connecticut 31st, so neither is a top performer. The fact that Rhode Island performs so poorly compared to these states shows how much work is needed in just these three categories.

Rhode Island is one of five states that spend more than $100,000 per state lane-mile on capital and bridge disbursements. New Jersey, Florida, New York, and Maryland are the other four.

Rhode Island is one of five states that spend more than $40,000 per state lane-mile on maintenance disbursements. New Jersey, Washington, New York, and California are the other four.

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

Rhode Island is one of five states that reported more than 5% of their rural other principal arterial pavement to be in poor condition. Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and New Jersey are the other four.

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

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

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.