Policy Study

Kansas Ranks 22nd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Kansas’ highway system ranks 22nd in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 15-spot decrease from the previous report, where Kansas ranked 7th. However, some categories in the report cannot be compared to previous years due to methodological changes that also impacted some state’s 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 other disbursements and other fatality rate. The state’s 2.61 other disbursement spending ratio is 3.1 times higher than peer state Nebraska’s ratio and 2.2 times higher than peer state Oklahoma’s ratio. Kansas’ 1.89 other fatality rate is 1.4 times higher than Nebraska’s rate but is similar to Oklahoma’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, Kansas ranks 30th in rural fatality rate, 27th in urban fatality rate, 17th in structurally deficient bridges, 37th in traffic congestion, 25th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 14th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Kansas is 13th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 22nd in maintenance spending per mile. 

Kansas’ best rankings are in rural arterial pavement condition (5th) and capital and bridge disbursements per mile (13th).

Kansas’ worst rankings are other disbursements per lane-mile (48th) and other fatality rate (41st).

Kansas drivers waste 24.7 hours per year in traffic congestion, ranking 37th in the nation. 

Kansas’ state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 27th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Kansas needs to reduce its other spending and reduce its other fatality rate. The two poor rankings are the largest reason Kansas ranks outside the top 20,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “While maintaining a state highway system requires resources, a bottom five ranking is a problem. And while lowering fatality rates in rural states such as Kansas can be challenging, Minnesota has a composite fatality ranking of 2.7, the best in the country. Kansas needs to consider innovative highway designs or more enforcement to reduce the other fatality rate.” 

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, Kansas’ overall highway performance is better than Iowa (ranks 31st) and Colorado (ranks 43rd) but worse than Missouri (ranks 11th). 

Kansas ranks ahead of comparable states such as Oklahoma (ranks 45th) and others like Nebraska (ranks 26th).

Kansas declined 17 positions in the rankings. While the state was penalized by the new methodology for calculating spending, the change was not the biggest reason for its decline. The state ranked 37th in urbanized area congestion, previously a strength. Further, the fatality rate continued to be a weakness, with the state ranking in the bottom 10 in other fatality rate. The state would benefit from reducing costs, particularly other disbursements. But addressing urbanized area congestion and fatality rates is the higher priority. 

Kansas is one of five states with an other disbursement ratio above 2.00. The other four are New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. 

Kansas 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, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, South Dakota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio. 

Kansas 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, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois.

Kansas is one of six states that declined in the overall rankings by at least 10 spots from the previous report. The other states are Oregon, Montana, South Dakota, Vermont, and Idaho.

*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.