Policy Study

Minnesota Ranks 12th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Minnesota’s highway system ranks 12th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a six-spot improvement from the previous report, where Minnesota ranked 18th overall. 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.

Minnesota needs to improve its maintenance disbursements per mile, other disbursements per mile, and urbanized area congestion. The state ranks in the bottom 15 of all states for each of the rankings. Minnesota’s 1.44 administrative disbursements per mile ratio is 2.5 times higher than peer state Michigan’s ratio and twice as high as peer state Wisconsin’s ratio. Minnesota’s 1.26 other disbursements per mile ratio is two times higher than Michigan’s ratio but lower than Wisconsin’s ratio. Finally, Minnesota’s 28.5 hours of delay per auto commuter is 1.2 times higher than Michigan’s hours and 1.7 times higher than Wisconsin’s hours. 

In safety and performance categories, Minnesota ranks 2nd in rural fatality rate, 2nd in urban fatality rate, 12th in structurally deficient bridges, 39th in traffic congestion, 27th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 17th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Minnesota is 33rd in capital and bridge spending per mile and 40th in maintenance spending per mile.

Minnesota’s best rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (1st), rural fatality rate (2nd), and urban fatality rate (2nd).

Minnesota’s worst rankings are in maintenance disbursements per lane-mile (40th) and urbanized area congestion (39th).

Minnesota’s commuters spend 28.5 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 39th in the country. 

Minnesota’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 22nd largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Minnesota needs to reduce its spending and improve its traffic congestion. While none of the rankings are abysmal, all four disbursement rankings are in the bottom 20 of all states. And considering the lack of traffic congestion outside of the Twin Cities, the urbanized area congestion ranking of 39th is concerning,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Spending is on the high side, and that spending is not translating to lower traffic congestion.”

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, Minnesota’s overall highway performance is better than Iowa (ranks 31st) and South Dakota (ranks 28th), but worse than North Dakota (ranks 9th). 

Minnesota is doing better than comparable states such as Wisconsin (ranks 33rd) and Michigan (ranks 27th). 

Minnesota operates a high-quality highway system that outperforms peer states Michigan and Wisconsin. Minnesota’s strength is a low fatality rate, unusual for a state with a large rural area. The state improved its rural Interstate pavement ranking to 17th and its urban Interstate pavement ranking to 27th from 35th in both categories in the previous report. Minnesota is now a top-15 state. But for it to vault into the top 10, it needs to reduce spending somewhat and reduce traffic congestion. 

*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.