Policy Study

Utah Ranks 6th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Utah’s highway system ranks 6th in the nation in overall cost- effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is an 11-spot improvement from the previous report, where Utah ranked 17th.

Utah ranks in the bottom 15 nationally in total disbursements, capital and bridge disbursements, and rural fatality rate. In total disbursements, Utah spends $104,840 per state-controlled mile, about $15,000 more than peer state Nevada spends and about

$20,000 more than peer state Colorado spends. In capital and bridge disbursements, Utah spends $58,679 per state-controlled mile about $7,000 more than Nevada and about

$12,000 more than Colorado. Finally, Utah’s rural fatality rate of 1.58 is about 1.5 higher than Colorado’s rate but slightly lower than Nevada’s rate.

In safety and performance categories, Utah ranks 8th in overall fatality rate, 4th in structurally deficient bridges, 1st in traffic congestion, 8th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 5th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Utah spends $104,840 per mile of state-controlled road. Utah is 36th in total spending per mile and 37th in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Utah’s best rankings are in urbanized area traffic congestion (1st) and urban arterial pavement condition (3rd).

Utah’s worst rankings are rural fatality rate (38th) and capital and bridge disbursements per mile (37th).

Utah commuters spend 1.75 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 1st nationally.

Utah’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 37th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Utah should try to reduce its urban fatality rate and slightly reduce its total disbursements and capital and bridge disbursements. While Utah does not rank poorly in any category, reducing the urban fatality rate and decreasing spending slightly will help the state move up in the rankings,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Utah rose 11 places from the previous version of this report as the state made a double-digit improvement in urban fatality rate and improved noticeably in six other categories.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Utah’s overall highway performance is better than Idaho (ranks 8th), New Mexico (ranks 27th), and Arizona (ranks 29th).

Utah is doing better than comparable states like Nevada (ranks 20th) and Colorado (ranks 37th).

Utah’s department of transportation (DOT) has long had the reputation of being one of the best run, if not the best run, DOTs in the country. Therefore, it is not surprising that Utah ranks in the top 10 in the Annual Highway Report. Utah’s rankings also show that states with above average spending can rank highly if their pavement quality and bridges are in good condition. Utah ranks in the bottom 20 in three of the four disbursement categories. Yet, because eight of Utah’s nine performance rankings are in the top 20, the state ranks in the top 10. Utah’s worst ranking is not in spending but in rural fatality rate. If the state can decrease that rate even somewhat, the state will move into the top five of all states.

Utah is one of six states that improved in the rankings by 10 or more spots. Wyoming, Virginia, Vermont, Georgia, and New Hampshire 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.