Policy Study

Virginia Ranks 2nd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Virginia’s highway system ranks 2nd in the nation in overall cost- effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 19-spot improvement from the previous report where Virginia ranked 21st.

Virginia ranks in the bottom half nationally in maintenance disbursements per mile and urbanized area congestion. Virginia spends $13,757 per lane-mile, almost double the $7,346 that peer state North Carolina spends and higher than the $12,498 that peer state Georgia spends. Virginia’s 8.46 hours motorists spend stuck in traffic congestion is similar to the levels in peer states Georgia and North Carolina.

In safety and performance categories, Virginia ranks 15th in overall fatality rate, 10th in structurally deficient bridges, 27th in traffic congestion, 17th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 6th in rural Interstate pavement condition.

Virginia spends $34,969 per mile of state-controlled road. Virginia is 8th in total spending per mile and 2nd in capital and bridge costs per mile.

Virginia’s best rankings are in capital and bridge disbursements per mile (2nd) and rural arterial pavement condition (4th).

Virginia’s worst rankings are in maintenance disbursements per mile (27th) and urbanized area congestion (27th).

Virginia commuters spend 8.46 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 27th nationally.

Virginia’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 3rd largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the rankings, Virginia should try to reduce its maintenance disbursements per mile and its urbanized area traffic congestion. While neither is awful, these are the two categories for which Virginia ranks in the bottom half of all states,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Virginia improved 19 spots in the rankings from the previous version of this report as the state improved in all four disbursement categories, including by double digits in overall disbursements and capital and bridge disbursements.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, Virginia’s overall highway performance is better than Tennessee (ranks 10th), West Virginia (ranks 30th), and Maryland (ranks 38th).

Virginia is doing better than comparable states like North Carolina (ranks 5th) and Georgia (ranks 14th).

Virginia is one of the few states that manages to have low overall costs and high overall system quality. The state is the only one with no rankings outside the top 30. In fact Virginia ranks in the top 20 in 11 of 13 categories. The secret to the state’s high overall ranking is not its number one rankings. It does not rank best in any one category. Rather, it is the complete lack of poor rankings. Virginia could still reduce its traffic congestion, particularly along the I-81 and I-95 corridors. The state has added a network of managed lanes in Northern Virginia, but traffic congestion is still a problem. If the state was able to reduce urbanized area congestion, it would likely rank number one.

Virginia is one of six states that improved in the rankings by 10 spots or more from the previous report. Wyoming, Vermont, Georgia, Utah, 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.