Policy Study

Louisiana Ranks 40th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Louisiana’s highway system ranks 40th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a five-spot decrease from the previous report, where Louisiana ranked 35th. 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.

Louisiana ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in six of the report’s 13 metrics. The state’s pavement quality, percentage of structurally deficient bridges, and fatality rates are disproportionately bad. Louisiana’s 3.07% of rural Interstate pavement in poor condition is 1.2 times more than peer state Arkansas’ percent and 2.1 times more than peer state Mississippi’s percent. Louisiana’s 11.99% of urban Interstate pavement in poor condition is 2.3 times more than Arkansas’ percent and 3.8 times more than Mississippi’s percent. Louisiana’s 2.33% of rural arterial pavement in poor condition is 1.3 times more than Arkansas’ percent and 2.5 times more than Mississippi’s percent. Louisiana’s 12.76% of bridges that are structurally deficient is 2.5 times as much as Arkansas’ percent and two times as much as Mississippi’s percent. Louisiana’s 1.43 urban fatality rate is 1.2 times higher than Arkansas’ rate and the same as Mississippi’s rate. Finally, Louisiana’s 2.11 other fatality rate is 1.9 times higher than Arkansas’ rate and nearly equivalent to Mississippi’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, Louisiana ranks 20th in rural fatality rate, 46th in urban fatality rate, 45th in structurally deficient bridges, 23rd in traffic congestion, 43rd in rural Interstate pavement condition, and 49th in urban Interstate pavement condition. 

Louisiana is 6th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 18th in maintenance spending per mile. 

Louisiana’s best rankings are in administrative disbursements (4th) and capital and bridge disbursements (6th).

Louisiana’s worst rankings are in urban Interstate pavement condition (49th) and other fatality rate (47th). 

Louisiana drivers spend 19.5 hours per year peak hour traffic congestion, ranking 23rd in the nation. 

Louisiana’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 14th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Louisiana needs to direct more resources toward its highway system. The state is one of several that spends relatively little and has very poor system conditions. Seven of Louisiana’s performance rankings are average or poor. In six of the nine performance categories the state ranks 40th or lower,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Urbanized area congestion is one of the only areas where the state performs satisfactorily, and that may change as travel patterns return to pre-COVID levels.”

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, Louisiana’s overall highway performance is better than Oklahoma (ranks 45th) but worse than Texas (ranks 19th) and Alabama (ranks 15th). 

Louisiana ranks behind comparable states such as Mississippi (ranks 18th) and others like Arkansas (ranks 13th). 

Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi all rank similarly on spending for their highway systems. Yet, while Arkansas’ average performance rank is 13th and Mississippi’s average performance rank is 18th, Louisiana’s average is 40th. In fact, Louisiana ranks in the bottom 15 of all states in seven categories. Louisiana could examine how Arkansas and Mississippi are able to get better quality highways and bridges at an equivalent cost. The state may also need to add resources to improve its system. 

Louisiana is one of eight states with more than 3% of their rural Interstate system pavement in poor condition. The other seven are Alaska, Colorado, California, Washington, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. 

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

Louisiana is one of nine states in which 10% or more of their bridges are structurally deficient. The others are West Virginia, Iowa, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Maine, North Dakota, and Michigan. 

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

Louisiana 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, 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. 

*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.