27th Annual Highway Report: Executive summary of findings and state rankings
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Policy Study

27th Annual Highway Report: Executive summary of findings and state rankings

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report has tracked the performance of the 50 state-owned highway systems from 1984 to 2020. The 27th Annual Highway Report ranks the performance of state highway systems in 2020, with congestion and bridge condition data from 2021. Each state’s overall rating is determined by rankings in 13 categories, including highway expenditures per mile, Interstate and primary road pavement conditions, urbanized area congestion, bridge conditions, and fatality rates. 

To improve report accuracy, the disbursement rankings are adjusted for urbanization. To improve accuracy and eliminate double counting, the Other Disbursements category has replaced the Total Disbursements category and Other Fatality Rate has replaced Total Fatality Rate. The Other Disbursements category measures safety, bonds, law enforcement, and interest payments, and the Other Fatality Rate category measures fatalities on rural and urban minor arterials, collectors, and local roadways. The study is based on spending and performance data state highway agencies submitted to the federal government. This study also reviews changes in highway performance over the past year. 

Although individual state highway sections (roads, bridges, pavements) steadily deteriorate over time due to age, traffic, and weather, they are improved by maintenance and reconstruction. As a result, system performance can improve even as individual roads and bridges deteriorate. Table ES1 summarizes recent system trends for key indicators. Although spending remained at a similar level to 2019, the U.S. saw incremental system improvements in some categories from 2019 to 2020, but also declines in several other categories. 

Table ES1: Performance of State-Owned Highway Systems, 2018-2020
Statistic201820192020Percent Change 2018-19Percent Change 2019-20
Mileage Under State Control (Thousands)857781868-8.87%11.14%
Disbursements per Lane-Mile, Capital/Bridges, $ $46,805 $41,850 $41,783 -10.59%-0.16%
Disbursements per Lane-Mile, Maintenance, $ $15,952 $14,570 $14,546 -8.66%-0.16%
Disbursements per Lane-Mile, Administration, $ $6,443 $5,351 $5,342 -16.95%1.51%
Disbursements per Lane-Mile, Other $N/A N/A $21,908 N/AN/A
Consumer Price Index (1983=$1.00) $2.53 $2.57 $2.64 1.56%2.72%
Rural Interstate, Percent Poor Condition 1.8922.095.82%4.50%
Urban Interstate, Percent Poor Condition 5.14.974.77-2.55%-4.02%
Rural Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor Condition 2.591.151.13-55.60%-1.74%
Urban Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor Condition*12.0613.5214.1912.11%4.96%
Urbanized Area Congestion 33.4323.8321.93-28.72%-7.97%
Structurally Deficient Bridges, Poor Condition 7.947.467.02-6.05%-5.90%
Other Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles N/AN/A1.54N/AN/A
Rural Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All Arterials1.421.261.3-11.27%3.17%
Urban Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All Arterials0.780.821.045.13%26.83%

Three of the four disbursement measures (Capital and Bridge Disbursements, Maintenance Disbursements, and Administrative Disbursements) decreased from the previous report. Other Disbursements per lane-mile is a new category for 2020, and therefore has no comparison to previous years. Further, four of the nine performance measures improved: Urban Interstate Pavement Condition, Rural Other Arterial Pavement Condition, Urbanized Area Congestion, and Structurally Deficient Bridges (a smaller percentage of bridges are structurally deficient). Four of the nine performance measures worsened: Rural Interstate Pavement Condition, Urban Other Arterial Pavement Condition, Rural Fatality Rate, and Urban Fatality Rate. Other Fatality Rate is a new category for 2020, and therefore has no comparison to previous years.

Overall, states are spending less money for a similar-quality roadway system. However, 2018 spending was extremely high, and may have been an outlier. Spending for 2019 and 2020 was very similar. 

Table ES2 summarizes system trends over the past 10 years. Over a 10-year period disbursements increased, pavement quality worsened, congestion improved (on a statewide basis), the percentage of structurally deficient bridges decreased, and the fatality rate increased. The worsening urban Interstate and rural arterial pavement quality are a change from the previous 10-year period.

Table ES2: Trends in Highway System Performance, 2010-2020
Mileage Under State Control (Thousands)N/A814*814*815*817*814*837N/A857781868
Other Disbursements per Lane-Mile, $N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A$21,908
Disbursements per Lane-Mile, Capital/Bridges, $$81,515*$81,844*$86,153*$84,494*$90,969*$91,992*$36,681 N/A$46,805 $41,850 $41,783
Disbursements per Lane-Mile, Maintenance, $$25,652*$25,129*$26,079*$25,996*$27,559*$28,020*$11,929 N/A$15,952 $14,570 $14,546
Disbursements per Lane-Mile, Administration, $$10,484*$10,430*$10,579*$10,051*$ 9,980*$10,864*$4,501 N/A$6,443 $5,351 $5,342
Consumer Price Index (1983=1.00)$2.22$2.25$2.32$2.35$2.39$2.39$2.42$2.48$2.53$2.57$2.64
Rural Interstate, Percent Poor ConditionN/A1.78*1.78*2.00*2.11*1.85*1.96N/A1.8922.09
Urban Interstate, Percent Poor ConditionN/A5.18*4.97*5.37*5.22*5.02*5.18N/A5.14.974.77
Rural Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor ConditionN/A0.77*0.89*1.27*1.20*1.35*1.36N/A2.591.151.13
Urban Other Principal Arterial, Percent Poor ConditionN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A13.97N/A12.0613.5214.19
Urbanized Area CongestionN/A42.15**N/A40.99**51.40**34.95**N/A34.733.4323.83***21.93
Structurally Deficient Bridges, Poor ConditionN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A9.60*9.18.867.947.46***7.02****
Other Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-MilesN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A1.54
Rural Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All ArterialsN/AN/AN/AN/A1.30*1.58*1.71N/A1.421.261.3
Urban Fatality Rate per 100 Million Vehicle-Miles, All ArterialsN/AN/AN/AN/A0.67*0.70*0.77N/A0.780.821.04

The top-performing states tend to be a mix of high-population and low-population states that lean both urban and rural. Very rural, low-population states may have a slight advantage. Though North Dakota has led the rankings for the past four years, this year Virginia ranked first, followed by North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Connecticut. 

At the other end of the rankings are Alaska, New York, Hawaii, California, and Washington. While very rural, low-population states may have a slight advantage, two of the five worst performing states rank in the bottom 11 in population. 

A number of states with large populations and/or large metro areas fared well: Virginia (1st), North Carolina (2nd), Tennessee (3rd), Georgia (4th), Missouri (11th), and Texas (19th).  

Some states had large increases or decreases in their ratings. However, methodological changes did impact some states’ overall rankings, so stakeholders should take caution in making direct comparisons to overall rankings in previous years. The methodological changes are explained in Part 2 and the appendix of the full report. The rankings for Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Maryland, Alabama, Illinois, and Georgia improved by at least 10 spots. However, the rankings for Idaho, Vermont, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, and Oregon worsened by at least 10 spots. 

Certain states spend significantly more than the national average. This spending may be justified if these states perform well in other categories. Unfortunately, some of the states that spend the most money are the worst performers:

  • For capital and bridge disbursements, six states have per mile ratios higher than 1.5: Washington, Alaska, Idaho, New York, Arizona, and New Jersey. 
  • For maintenance disbursements, seven states have per mile ratios higher than 1.5: Washington, Vermont, Indiana, Alaska, New York, Oklahoma, and California.
  • For administrative disbursements, seven states have per mile ratios higher than 2.0: Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Washington. 
  • For other disbursements, five states have per mile ratios higher than 2.0: New York, Oregon, Kansas, Utah, and Washington. 

System performance problems in each measured category seem to be concentrated in a few states: 

  • More than 25% of the rural Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just three states: California, Colorado, and Alaska. 
  • More than 25% of the urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just four states: California, New York, Louisiana, Hawaii.
  • Approximately 30% of the rural arterial mileage in poor condition is in just three states: Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Alaska. 
  • Approximately 26% of the urban arterial primary mileage in poor condition is in just five states: New York, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and California. 
  • Automobile commuters in nine states spend more than 30 hours annually stuck in peak-hour traffic congestion: New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Rhode Island, Illinois, California, Delaware, and Connecticut.
  • Although a majority of states saw the percentage of structurally deficient bridges decline, nine states report more than 10% of their bridges as structurally deficient: West Virginia, Iowa, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Maine, North Dakota, and Michigan. 
  • Three states have rural fatality rates of 2.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher: South Carolina, Hawaii, and Nevada. 
  • Urban fatality rates continue to worsen as 25 states have urban fatality rates of 1.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher: New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, 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. 
  • Other fatality rates are poor as 24 states have other fatality rates of 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher: West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, South Dakota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio. 

System performance improved for some states but declined for others this year, with slightly less than half of the states (21 of 50) making progress between 2019 and 2020. However, a 10-year average of state overall performance data indicates that system performance problems are concentrated in the bottom 10 states. These states are finding it difficult to improve. There is also increasing evidence that higher-level highway systems (Interstates, other freeways, and principal arterials) are in better shape than lower-level highway systems, particularly local roads. 

*State-controlled miles were used from 2008 to 2015. From 2016 to 2020 state-controlled lane-miles were used.

**A different congestion metric was used for these years.

***Data from 2020.

****Data from 2021.

27th Annual Highway Report: Each State’s Highway Performance Ranking By Category
StateOverallCapital & Bridge Disbursements RatioMaintenance Disbursements RatioAdmin Disbursements RatioOther Disbursements RatioRural Interstate Pavement ConditionUrban Interstate Pavement ConditionRural Other Principal Arterial Pavement ConditionUrban Other Principal Arterial Pavement ConditionUrbanized Area CongestionStructurally Deficient BridgesRural Fatality RateUrban Fatality RateOther Fatality Rate
New Hampshire141930453461221321343114
New Jersey444542354024464145503113183
New Mexico36714827402831361618315036
New York49474636503848324649407199
North Carolina21188515151071130222039
North Dakota9385123572282444319523
Rhode Island42223129331849494648261613
South Carolina652321932481723503046
South Dakota2818364629841819547293137
West Virginia39495444454514650212150

View national trends and state-by-state performances by category:
Capital & Bridge Disbursements
Maintenance Disbursements
Administrative Disbursements
Other Disbursements
Rural Interstate Pavement Condition
Rural Other Principal Arterial Pavement Condition
Urban Interstate Pavement Condition
Urban Other Principal Arterial Pavement Condition
Urbanized Area Congestion
Structurally Deficient Bridges
Rural Fatality Rate
Urban Fatality Rate
Other Fatality Rate