Policy Study

Maryland Ranks 24th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Maryland’s highway system ranks 24th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 14-spot improvement from the previous report, where Maryland ranked 38th. 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.

Maryland ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in urban Interstate pavement condition and urban arterial pavement condition. Maryland’s 6.94% of poor urban Interstate mileage is 2.3 times more than peer state Massachusetts’ percent but less than peer state New Jersey’s percent. Maryland’s 16.81% of poor urban arterial mileage is well above average but lower than Massachusetts’ and New Jersey’s percents. 

In safety and performance categories, Maryland ranks 1st in rural fatality rate, 25th in urban fatality rate, 14th in structurally deficient bridges, 34th in traffic congestion, 23rd in rural Interstate pavement condition, and 42nd in urban Interstate pavement condition. 

Maryland is 30th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 26th in maintenance spending per mile.

Maryland’s best rankings are in rural fatality rate (1st) and structurally deficient bridges (14th).

Maryland’s worst rankings are in urban Interstate pavement condition (42nd) and urban arterial pavement condition (41st). 

Maryland commuters spend 23.5 hours stuck in congestion range, ranking 34th nationally. 

Maryland’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 39th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Maryland needs to improve its pavement quality. The state ranks in the bottom 10 of all states in both urban pavement quality metrics. The state is outperforming its northeastern peer states in most categories, but urban pavement condition is a weakness,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “If Maryland could improve its urban pavement quality, it would move into the top 20 in the overall rankings.”  

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, Maryland’s overall highway performance is better than Pennsylvania (41st) and Delaware (35th), but worse than Virginia (1st).

Maryland is doing worse than some comparable states such as Massachusetts (ranks 20th) but better than others like New Jersey (ranks 44th). 

Maryland’s 14-spot improvement in the rankings is one of the larger jumps. The state benefitted from the report’s change in calculating spending. But the state has long outperformed its northeastern peers on expenditures, pavement quality, and bridge condition. For example, the state has two times fewer poor lane-miles of rural arterial pavement than New Jersey and slightly fewer poor miles than Massachusetts. However, for the state to continue to climb in the rankings it needs to address urban pavement quality.

Maryland 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, Alabama, Illinois, 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.