Policy Study

Mississippi Ranks 18th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Mississippi’s highway system ranks 18th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a three-spot decline from the previous report, where Mississippi ranked 15th. 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.

Mississippi ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in the three fatality rates. The state’s 1.81 rural fatality rate is 1.2 times higher than peer state Alabama’s rate and 1.6 times higher than peer state Louisiana’s rate. The state’s 1.43 urban fatality rate is 1.2 times higher than Alabama’s rate and equivalent to Louisiana’s rate. Finally, the state’s other fatality rate is 2.16, 1.5 times higher Alabama’s rate and nearly identical to Louisiana’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, Mississippi ranks 46th in rural fatality rate, 45th in urban fatality rate, 29th in structurally deficient bridges, 27th in traffic congestion, 26th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 29th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Mississippi is 17th in capital and bridge costs per mile and 3rd in maintenance spending per mile. 

Mississippi’s best rankings are in maintenance disbursements per mile (3rd) and administrative disbursements per mile (10th). 

Mississippi’s worst rankings are other fatality rate (49th) and rural fatality rate (46th). 

Mississippi’s commuters spend 22.2 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 27th in the country. 

Mississippi’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 24th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Mississippi needs to reduce its fatality rates. In the 10 non-fatality rate categories, Mississippi’s lowest ranking is 29th, but in the three fatality rankings, the highest ranking is 45th,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “While it may be challenging for Mississippi to have fatality rates as low as other rural states such as Minnesota, its ranking will not improve until it reduces the fatality rate somewhat.”

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, Mississippi’s overall highway performance is worse than Tennessee (3rd) and Arkansas (13th), and similar to Texas (19th). 

Mississippi is doing worse than some comparable states such as Alabama (15th), but better than others like Louisiana (41st). 

While no rural state is ever going to lead the country in fatality rate, Mississippi needs to have a better showing than 49th, 46th, and 45th in the three rates. Of the 10 non-fatality ratings, Mississippi’s lowest ranking is 29th in structurally deficient bridges and rural Interstate pavement condition. Of the three fatality rankings, Mississippi’s highest rating is 45th in urban fatality rate. In every edition of this report, Mississippi has performed poorly in the fatality categories. Whether due to a lack of enforcement, poor road design, indifference, or some combination, the state has failed to address this problem. Reducing the fatality rates would vault the state into the top 10 in the overall rankings. 

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

Mississippi 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, Kentucky, Louisiana, 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.