Policy Study

West Virginia Ranks 30th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

West Virginia’s highway system ranks 30th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a three-spot improvement from the previous report, where West Virginia ranked 33rd.

West Virginia ranks in the bottom two in structurally deficient bridges. And the state ranks in the bottom 20 in three of the four pavement categories. Twenty-one percent of West Virginia’s bridges are structurally deficient, four times the percentage of peer state Indiana and three times the percentage of peer state Kentucky. More than 2% of West Virginia’s rural Interstates have poor pavement; this is twice the percentage as Kentucky although somewhat less than Indiana. Almost 5% of West Virginia’s urban Interstate pavement is in poor condition; this is twice the percentage of Kentucky although somewhat less than Indiana. Finally, more than 4% of West Virginia’s rural arterial pavement is in poor condition. This is 10 times the percentage of Kentucky and seven times the percentage of Indiana.

In safety and performance categories, West Virginia ranks 38th in overall fatality rate, 49th in structurally deficient bridges, 8th in traffic congestion, 33rd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 31st in rural Interstate pavement condition.

West Virginia spends $20,884 per mile of state-controlled road. West Virginia is 1st in total spending per mile and 3rd in capital and bridge costs per mile.

West Virginia’s best rankings are in total disbursements (1st), capital and bridge disbursements (3rd), and administrative disbursements (3rd).

West Virginia’s worst rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (49th) and rural arterial pavement quality (45th).

West Virginia commuters spend 5.58 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 8th nationally.

West Virginia’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 7th largest highway system in the country.

“To rise in the rankings, West Virginia needs to improve the condition of its pavement and its bridges. West Virginia is one of only two states where more than 20% of the bridges are structurally deficient, which can be a safety concern. West Virginia is one of six states where more than 4% of rural arterial pavement is in poor condition. This is a concern because West Virginia has a large percentage of rural arterials,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The state’s disbursements rank among the best in the country. But the poor quality of the infrastructure suggests West Virginia may need to direct more resources to its highway system.”

Additional Analysis

Compared to nearby states, West Virginia’s overall highway performance is better than Maryland (ranks 38th) but worse than Virginia (ranks 2nd) and Ohio (ranks 24th).

West Virginia is doing worse than some comparable states like Kentucky (ranks 4th) but better than others such as Indiana (ranks 32nd).

West Virginia shows that it takes more than low costs to earn a high ranking. In overall disbursements West Virginia is number one. In fact the lowest ranking the state earns in any spending category is 5th in maintenance disbursements. The state has the best composite disbursement score. So what’s the problem? Overall the system is in poor shape. West Virginia has the second highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, the sixth highest percentage of poor rural arterial pavement as well as poor Interstate pavement quality. In fact, if not for solid rankings in rural fatality rate and urban fatality rate for such a rural state, West Virginia would rank lower. To improve in the rankings the state needs to direct additional resources to its highway system.

West Virginia is one of five states that reported more than 20% of their bridges are structurally deficient. Rhode Island, 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.