Policy Study

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

Arizona’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 one-spot decrease from 29th in the previous report. However, some categories in the report cannot be compared to previous years due to methodological changes that also impacted some states’ overall rankings. These changes are fully explained in Part 2 and the appendix of the full report. 

Arizona ranks in the bottom 10 of all states in five of the 13 performance metrics. The state’s 1.54 capital and bridge disbursement ratio per lane-mile is 1.5 times higher than peer state Colorado’s ratio and 1.1 times higher than peer state Nevada’s ratio. The state’s 1.60 administrative disbursement per lane-mile ratio is 1.1 times higher than peer state Colorado’s ratio but less than peer state Nevada’s ratio. The state’s 1.72 other disbursement per lane-mile ratio is 3.9 times higher than peer state Colorado’s ratio and 1.5 times higher than peer state Nevada’s ratio. Arizona’s 1.62 rural fatality rate is 1.5 times higher than peer state Colorado’s rate but slightly lower than peer state Nevada’s rate. Arizona’s 1.49 urban fatality rate is 1.5 times higher than Nevada’s and Colorado’s rates. 

In safety and performance categories, Arizona ranks 41st in rural fatality rate, 48th in urban fatality rate, 1st in structurally deficient bridges, 27th in traffic congestion, 34th in rural Interstate pavement condition and 14th in urban Interstate pavement condition.

The state ranks 46th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 10th in maintenance spending per mile.

Arizona’s best rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (1st) and maintenance disbursements per lane-mile (10th). 

Arizona’s worst rankings are in urban fatality rate (48th) and capital and bridge disbursements per lane-mile (46th). 

Arizona’s drivers waste 22.2 hours a year in traffic congestion, ranking 27th in the nation. 

Arizona’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 31st largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the report’s overall rankings, Arizona could reduce its rural and urban fatality rates as well as its capital and bridge disbursements,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The state has a low percentage of structurally deficient bridges but three of its four spending categories rank in the bottom 10 of all states and its pavement quality is a mixed bag.” 

Additional Analysis 

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, other) per mile.

Compared to nearby states, Arizona’s overall highway performance is better than California (ranks 47th) and New Mexico (ranks 36th) but worse than Utah (ranks 10th).

Arizona ranks ahead of some comparable states, such as Colorado (ranks 43rd) and behind others like Nevada (ranks 21st). 

Arizona ranks lower than many of its peer states, because while it shines in some areas it struggles in others. It has the lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges of all states, smooth urban highways, and low maintenance spending. On the other hand, the state ranks in the bottom 10 in rural fatality rate and urban fatality rate. Its rankings in capital and bridge disbursements, administrative disbursements, and other disbursements are on the high side. Finally, the state’s rural pavement quality is below average. Arizona would climb in the rankings if it could improve any of these metrics, particularly its rural and urban fatality rates. 

Arizona is one of six states with a capital and bridge disbursement ratio above 1.50. The other five are Washington, Alaska, Idaho, New York, and New Jersey. 

Arizona is one of 25 states that have urban fatality rates of 1.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher. The other 24 states are New Mexico, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming, Delaware, Missouri, Alaska, Kentucky, Hawaii, Alabama, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, and Illinois.

*2021 data
The Annual Highway Report is based on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government and urban congestion data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute for 2020 as well as bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2021. For more details on the calculation of each of the 13 performance measures used in the report, as well as the overall performance measure, please refer to the appendix in the main report. The report’s dataset includes Interstate, federal, and state roads, but not county or local roads. All rankings are based on performance measures that are ratios rather than absolute values: the financial measures are disbursements per mile, the fatality rate is fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles of travel, the urban congestion measure is the annual delay per auto commuter, and the others are percentages. For example, the state ranking 1st in structurally deficient bridges has the smallest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, not the smallest number of structurally deficient bridges.