Policy Study

Delaware Ranks 35th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Delaware’s highway system ranks 35th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a nine-spot improvement from the previous report, where Delaware ranked 44th. 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.

Delaware ranks in the bottom 10 in four of the report’s 12 metrics (Delaware has no rural Interstate mileage): administrative costs, urban Interstate pavement condition, urbanized area congestion, and urban fatality rate. The state’s 2.59 administrative disbursement per mile ratio is 4.5 times higher than Connecticut’s ratio and 1.2 times higher than New Hampshire’s ratio. The state’s 8.67% of urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is 5.5 times higher than Connecticut’s percent and 54 times higher than New Hampshire’s percent. Commuters in Delaware spend 30.8 hours stuck in traffic congestion, slightly more hours than commuters in Connecticut and 1.6 times more hours than commuters in New Hampshire. Finally, the state’s 1.33 urban fatality rate is twice as high as Connecticut’s rate and three times higher than New Hampshire’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, Delaware ranks 38th in rural fatality rate, 43rd in urban fatality rate, 4th in structurally deficient bridges, 43rd in traffic congestion, and 44th in urban Interstate pavement condition. 

The state ranks 10th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 38th in maintenance spending per mile.

Delaware’s best rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (4th) and capital and bridge disbursements per lane-mile (10th).

Delaware’s worst rankings are in administrative disbursements per mile (49th) and urban Interstate pavement condition (44th). 

Delaware’s drivers waste 30.8 hours a year in traffic congestion, ranking 43rd in the nation. 

Delaware’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 42nd largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the report’s overall rankings, Delaware needs to reduce its administrative spending, reduce its traffic congestion, improve its urban Interstate pavement condition, and reduce its fatality rates,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The state ranks in the top 15 in three categories and the bottom 10 in four categories. Improving Interstate pavement quality is the biggest need.”

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, Delaware’s overall highway performance is better than New Jersey (ranks 44th) but worse than Maryland (ranks 24th) and similar to Pennsylvania (ranks 41st). 

Delaware ranks behind other comparable states, such as Connecticut (ranks 5th) and others like New Hampshire (ranks 14th). 

Delaware is a state that either ranks well or poorly in each category. The state has only two rankings in the 20s. Rural arterial pavement, structurally deficient bridges, and urban arterial pavement are ranked highly. Unfortunately, administrative disbursements, urban Interstate pavement quality, urbanized area congestion, and rural fatality rate are all ranked in the bottom 10. The number of poor rankings is higher than the number of good rankings leading to the state’s below average ranking. 

Delaware is one of seven states with an administrative disbursement ratio higher than 2.0. The other six are Vermont, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Washington. 

Delaware is one of eight states that have more than 7% of their urban Interstate pavement in poor condition. The other seven are Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, California, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Michigan. 

Delaware is one of nine states where automobile commuters spend more than 30 hours annually stuck in peak-hour traffic congestion. New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Rhode Island, Illinois, California, and Connecticut are the others.

Delaware 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, Arizona, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming, 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.