Policy Study

Texas Ranks 16th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Texas’ highway system ranks 16th in the nation in overall cost- effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a two-spot improvement from the previous report where Texas ranked 18th.

Texas ranks in the bottom 15 nationally in traffic congestion and urban fatality rate. Texas’ 23.42 hours of traffic congestion are five times more than peer state Montana’s 4.90 hours but slightly lower than peer state California’s 27.17 hours. Texas’ 1.00 per 100 million urban vehicle-miles fatality rate is more than twice as high as Montana’s 0.42 rate and significantly higher than California’s 0.80 rate.

In safety and performance categories, Texas ranks 33rd in overall fatality rate, 2nd in structurally deficient bridges, 40th in traffic congestion, 25th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 14th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Texas spends $75,153 per mile of state-controlled road. Texas is 24th in total spending per mile and 30th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Texas’ best rankings are in percent structurally deficient bridges (2nd) and administrative disbursements (12th).

Texas’ worst rankings are in urbanized area congestion (40th) and urban fatality rate (40th). Texas commuters spend 23.42 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 40th nationally.

Texas’ state-controlled highway mileage makes it the largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Texas needs to reduce its urbanized area congestion and its urban fatality rate. The state ranks in the bottom 15 of all states in both categories,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Texas ranks in the top half of all states in six categories and has no other glaring weaknesses. If the state can reduce urbanized area congestion and urban fatality rate, it can move up significantly in the rankings.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Texas’ overall highway performance is better than New Mexico (ranks 27th), Louisiana (ranks 35th), and Oklahoma (ranks 36th).

Texas is doing better some than comparable states like California (ranks 45th) but worse than others such as Montana (ranks 11th).

Texas ranks in the top 20 because its rankings are good to average in most categories. Its overall costs rank slightly below average, its overall pavement quality ranks above average, and it has the second lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges. Considering the state has large rural sections, its 33rd place ranking in overall fatality rate is not bad either. But urbanized area congestion and the urban fatality rate are major weaknesses. And by prohibiting construction of new toll roads, Texas legislators are taking away one of the most effective tools in reducing traffic congestion. Texas is unlikely to move up in the rankings until it addresses traffic congestion in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Texas 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, South Carolina, and Georgia 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.