Policy Study

South Carolina Ranks 23rd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

South Carolina’s highway system ranks 23rd in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 17-spot decline from the previous report, where South Carolina ranked 6th.

South Carolina ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in all three fatality rates and rural Interstate pavement condition. More than 4% of South Carolina’s rural Interstate pavement is in poor condition, almost four times more than peer state Kentucky and more than three times more than peer state Alabama. South Carolina’s overall fatality rate of 1.73 is 1.5 times as high as both Alabama and Kentucky. South Carolina’s rural fatality rate of 2.19 is 1.5 times as high as Alabama and twice as high as Kentucky. Finally, South Carolina’s urban fatality rate of 1.03 is comparable to Alabama’s rate but exceeds Kentucky’s rate.

In safety and performance categories, South Carolina ranks 50th in overall fatality rate, 31st in structurally deficient bridges, 26th in traffic congestion, 28th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 45th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

South Carolina spends $27,479 per mile of state-controlled road. South Carolina is 3rd in total spending per mile and 9th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

South Carolina’s best rankings are in total disbursements per mile (3rd) and maintenance disbursements per mile (3rd).

South Carolina’s worst rankings are in overall fatality rate (50th) and rural fatality rate (48th).

South Carolina commuters spend 8.45 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 26th nationally.

South Carolina’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the fourth largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, South Carolina needs to improve its rural Interstate pavement condition and reduce all three of its fatality rates. While fatality rate has long been a problem in the state, South Carolina has the worst overall combined fatality rate in the country. Typically, rural states have the highest fatality rates, but South Carolina is less rural than most of the other states that rank in the bottom 10,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “While South Carolina’s fatality rate may never equal Massachusetts’ rate, if the state could reduce its rate closer to the national average it would move up in the overall rankings.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, South Carolina ’s overall highway performance is worse than North Carolina (ranks 5th), Tennessee (ranks 10th) and Georgia (ranks 14th).

South Carolina is doing better than some comparable states like Alabama (ranks 28th) but worse than others such as Kentucky (ranks 4th).

South Carolina declined 17 spots in the overall rankings, by far the largest decline. But the system has been trending downward over the last five years. Ten years ago the state routinely placed in the top five states. What has changed? The state’s fatality rate has always been high but the state used to have low overall spending, smooth pavement and acceptable bridge condition. The spending is still low, but pavement quality has deteriorated, particularly for rural Interstates. The state is merely middle of the road in urban Interstate and rural arterial pavement quality as well. And the state ranks in the bottom 20 in percentage of structurally deficient bridges. South Carolina may need to devote additional resources to improve the overall performance of its system.

South Carolina is one of five states that reported more than 4% of rural Interstate mileage to be in poor condition. The other four are Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and Indiana.

South Carolina is one of three states that reported an overall fatality rate of 1.50 or higher per 100 million vehicle-miles. Mississippi and New Mexico are the other two.

South Carolina is one of five states that reported a rural fatality rate of 2.0 or higher per 100 million vehicle-miles. Hawaii, Nevada, Arkansas, and Alaska are the other four.

South Carolina is one of 11 states that reported an urban fatality rate of 1.0 or higher per 100 million vehicle-miles. New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, Alaska, Tennessee, Hawaii, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas are the others.

South Carolina is one of four states that declined in the overall rankings by 10 spots or more from the previous report. New Mexico, Ohio, and Michigan 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.