Policy Study

Arkansas Ranks 13th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Arkansas’ highway system ranks 13th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a four-spot improvement from 17th 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.

Arkansas’ bottom 20 rankings in rural Interstate pavement condition, urban Interstate pavement condition, and rural arterial pavement condition are a concern. The state’s 2.65% of rural Interstate pavement in poor condition is five times higher than peer state Missouri’s percent but comparable to peer state Louisiana’s percent. The state’s 5.13% of urban Interstate pavement in poor condition is 1.7 times higher than Missouri’s percent but less than half that of Louisiana’s percent. Finally, the state’s 1.79% of rural arterial pavement in poor condition is three higher than Missouri’s percent although better than Louisiana’s percent. 

In safety and performance categories, Arkansas ranks 18th in rural fatality rate, 7th in urban fatality rate, 20th in structurally deficient bridges, 25th in traffic congestion, 37th in rural Interstate pavement condition, and 35th in urban Interstate pavement condition. 

The state ranks 15th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 6th in maintenance spending per mile. 

Arkansas’ best rankings are in administrative disbursements (2nd) and maintenance disbursements (6th).

Arkansas’ worst rankings are in rural Interstate pavement condition (37th) and rural arterial pavement condition (37th). 

Arkansas’ drivers waste 20.4 hours a year in traffic congestion, ranking 25th in the nation. 

Arkansas’ state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 16th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the report’s overall rankings, Arkansas needs to improve its rural Interstate pavement condition, urban Interstate pavement condition, and rural arterial pavement condition,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Arkansas’ low overall spending remains a strength of the system but that state will not climb into the top 10 of the overall rankings until its improves its pavement quality.”  

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, Arkansas’ overall highway performance is better than Mississippi (ranks 18th) and Oklahoma (ranks 45th) but worse than Tennessee (ranks 3rd). 

Arkansas ranks behind some comparable states such as Missouri (ranks 11th) but ahead of others like Louisiana (ranks 40th). 

Arkansas is a high-performing state with many strengths. Its system is very efficient and bridge quality is good. Its fatality rates are very low for a rural state. What is preventing Arkansas from a top-10 ranking? The answer is that all four of Arkansas’ pavement quality metrics are average to below average, ranked between 27th and 37th. If Arkansas is able to improve its pavement quality, even slightly, it will jump into the top 10 spots in the rankings. 

*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.