Policy Study

Maine Ranks 32nd in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Maine’s highway system ranks 32nd in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a one-spot improvement from the previous report, where Maine ranked 33rd. 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.

Maine ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in rural arterial pavement condition and structurally deficient bridges. Maine’s 3.85% poor rural arterial pavement condition is 4.4 times higher than peer state New Hampshire’s percent and 2.1 times higher than peer state Vermont’s percent. Maine’s 12.64% structurally deficient bridges is 1.6 times higher than New Hampshire’s percent and 5.3 times higher than Vermont’s percent. 

In safety and performance categories, Maine ranks 8th in rural fatality rate, 4th in urban fatality rate, 44th in structurally deficient bridges, 8th in traffic congestion, 27th in rural Interstate pavement condition, and 7th in urban Interstate pavement condition. 

Maine is 23rd in capital and bridge costs per mile and 39th in maintenance spending per mile.

Maine’s best rankings are in urban fatality rate (4th), administrative disbursements per mile (7th), and urban Interstate pavement condition (7th).

Maine’s worst rankings are in rural arterial pavement condition (47th) and structurally deficient bridges (44th). 

Maine commuters spend 14.7 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 8th nationally. 

Maine’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 35th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Maine needs to reduce its maintenance costs, improve its rural arterial pavement condition and reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. The state ranks in the bottom 15 states in all three of these categories. In disbursements, pavement quality, and safety, Maine has categories in which it excels and categories in which it struggles,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Maine needs to find a way to improve in the categories where it struggles.”

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, Maine’s overall highway performance is worse than Connecticut (ranks 5th), but better than Massachusetts (ranks 20th), and New York (ranks 49th).

Maine ranks ahead of comparable states such as Vermont (ranks 38th) but behind others like New Hampshire (ranks 14th). 

Maine’s rankings are a confounding mix of good, average, and poor. It’s top 10 in administrative disbursements but bottom 15 in maintenance disbursements. It’s top 10 in urban Interstate pavement condition but bottom 10 in rural arterial pavement condition. It ranks in the top 10 in both urban and rural fatality rates but in the bottom 10 in percent structurally deficient bridges. Typically, states will excel in one type of category such as pavement condition but struggle in another such as safety. Fixing the areas where the state performs poorly is critical. Over the last five years, the state has moved from being a top five state to one that ranks below average. 

Maine is one of five states that reported more than 3% of their rural other principal arterial pavement to be in poor condition. The others are Alaska, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Idaho. 

Maine 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, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Michigan. 

Maine 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, Georgia, 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.