Policy Study

Georgia Ranks 4th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness


Georgia’s highway system ranks 4th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 10-spot increase from 14th 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.


Georgia ranks in the bottom 15 states nationally in urbanized area congestion, and rural and urban fatality rates. Georgia’s drivers waste 28.9 hours a year in traffic congestion, 1.8 times more than peer state North Carolina’s drivers and 1.3 times more than peer state Tennessee’s drivers. Georgia’s rural fatality rate of 1.37 is 1.2 times higher than North Carolina’s rate and Tennessee’s rate. Georgia’s urban fatality rate of 1.20 is 1.3 times higher than North Carolina’s rate but lower than Tennessee’s rate. 


In safety and performance categories, Georgia ranks 35th in rural fatality rate, 37th in urban fatality rate, 6th in structurally deficient bridges, 40th in traffic congestion, 5th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 18th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 


The state ranks 8th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 13th in maintenance spending per mile. 


Georgia’s best rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (3rd) and urban Interstate pavement condition (5th). 


Georgia’s worst rankings are in urbanized area congestion (40th) and urban fatality rate (37th). 


Georgia’s drivers waste 28.9 hours a year in traffic congestion, ranking 40th in the nation. 


Georgia’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 11th largest highway system in the country.


“To improve in the report’s overall rankings, Georgia could reduce its urban fatality rate and urban traffic congestion,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Georgia ranks in the bottom 15 nationally for each ranking.”


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, Georgia’s overall highway performance is better than Florida (ranks 8th), Alabama (ranks 15th), and South Carolina (ranks 6th). 


Georgia ranks behind other comparable states, such as North Carolina (ranks 2nd) and Tennessee (ranks 3rd). 


Georgia is a top-10 population state with a major metro area (Atlanta) and ranks better overall than many other high-population states, such as Florida. What is Georgia doing right? Georgia spends less than the national average on its highway system, and this spending is being effectively used to produce high-quality pavement conditions and well-maintained bridges. One of the state’s biggest weaknesses—urban traffic congestion— is being addressed by building a network of variably-priced managed lanes in metro Atlanta that could improve the state’s traffic congestion in future reports. With a decrease in its fatality rates, the state could be a contender for the number one overall ranking. 


Georgia 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, Delaware, Missouri, Alaska, Kentucky, Hawaii, Alabama, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, and Illinois.


Georgia is one of 24 states that have other fatality rates of 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher. The other 23 are West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, South Dakota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio. 

Georgia is one of eight states that improved in the overall rankings by at least 10 spots from the previous report. The other states are Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Maryland, Alabama, 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.