Policy Study

Illinois Ranks 29th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Illinois’ highway system ranks 29th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is an 11-spot improvement from 40th 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.

The state ranks in the bottom 10 of all states in rural arterial pavement quality and urbanized area congestion. The state’s 2.45% of rural arterial pavement in poor condition is more than 3.5 times that of peer state Michigan’s poor pavement and four times more than peer state Ohio’s poor pavement. Illinois’ 32 hours of traffic congestion is 1.3 times more than Michigan’s and 1.4 times more than Ohio’s. 

In safety and performance categories, Illinois ranks 14th in rural fatality rate, 26th in urban fatality rate, 38th in structurally deficient bridges, 45th in traffic congestion, 34th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 26th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

The state ranks 34th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 27th in maintenance spending per mile. 

Illinois’ best rankings are in administrative disbursements per mile (11th) and rural fatality rate (14th). 

Illinois’ worst rankings are in urbanized area congestion (45th) and rural arterial pavement condition (44th). 

Illinois’ drivers waste 32 hours a year in traffic congestion, ranking 45th in the nation. 

Illinois’ state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 13th largest highway system in the country.

“To improve in the report’s overall rankings, Illinois needs to improve its rural arterial pavement condition and reduce its urbanized area congestion. While the state doesn’t rank in the bottom five in any categories, it doesn’t rank in the top five either,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The state ranks about average, which is an improvement over prior years. 

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.

Additional Analysis 

Compared to nearby states, Illinois’ overall highway performance is worse than Missouri (ranks 11th), Wisconsin (ranks 33rd), and Indiana (ranks 23rd).

Illinois ranks behind other comparable states, such as Ohio (ranks 17th) and others like Michigan (ranks 27th). 

While Illinois’ spending is about average, it performs below average in many categories. Both its percent of rural arterial pavement in poor condition and its urbanized area traffic congestion are noticeably worse than every other midwestern state. And the state needs to improve pavement quality on the three other roadway categories and reduce its percent of structurally deficient bridges. The state has failed to be proactive. For urbanized congestion—long a problem—the state has not built sufficient capacity or enacted variable-priced tolling. While the state has benefitted from the report’s change in calculating spending, there is significant room for improvement. 

Illinois 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, California, Delaware, and Connecticut are the others.

Illinois 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 Georgia.

*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.