Policy Study

Michigan Ranks 27th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Michigan’s highway system ranks 27th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a seven-spot improvement from the previous report, where Michigan ranked 34th. 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.

Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in four of the report’s 13 metrics. Michigan’s 3.00% of poor rural Interstate mileage is 2.2 times higher than peer state Illinois’ percent and 1.5 times higher than peer state Ohio’s percent. Michigan’s 7.79% of poor urban Interstate mileage is 1.5 times as high as Illinois’ percent and Ohio’s percent. Michigan’s 16.95% poor urban arterial mileage is 1.5 times higher than Illinois’ percent and 1.1 times higher than Ohio’s percent. Finally, Michigan’s 10.99% structurally deficient bridges is 1.2 times higher than Illinois’ percent and 2.2 times higher than Ohio’s percent. 

In safety and performance categories, Michigan ranks 5th in rural fatality rate, 28th in urban fatality rate, 42nd in structurally deficient bridges, 35th in traffic congestion, 43rd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 41st in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Michigan is 20th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 12th in maintenance spending per mile.

Michigan’s best rankings are in rural fatality rate (5th) and maintenance disbursements per lane-mile (12th).

Michigan’s worst rankings are in urban Interstate pavement condition (43rd), structurally deficient bridges (42nd), and urban arterial pavement condition (42nd). 

Michigan commuters spend 24.3 hours per year in peak hour traffic congestion, ranking 35th nationally.

Michigan’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 25th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Michigan needs to improve its pavement quality and reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. The state ranks in the bottom 10 of all states in three of the four pavement categories and in percentage structurally deficient bridges,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Michigan is one of the few states that could benefit from spending slightly more on its highway system or improve the overall condition. Michigan’s spending is lower than average but its pavement and bridge quality is far below average.”

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, Michigan’s overall highway performance is worse than Indiana (ranks 23rd), but better than Wisconsin (ranks 33rd) and Pennsylvania (ranks 41st). 

Michigan is doing better than some comparable states such as Illinois (ranks 29th) but worse than others like Ohio (ranks 17th). 

While infrastructure in Michigan is older than in some other parts of the country, the state still needs to do better than placing in the bottom 10 in three of the four pavement categories and bridge quality. The state needs to increase its use of innovative finance methods including P3s, implement tolling where feasible, and redirect resources in order to improve in the rankings. 

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

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

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

Michigan 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, Kansas, and Illinois.

Michigan is one of 24 states that reported 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, Maine, 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.